Less than two months after Afghan Taliban took complete control of Kabul and pledged to rein in militant outfits operating from the Afghan soil, the promise is falling short of actions. Pakistan is faced with tough decisions. The outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has refused the government’s amnesty offer and has put forth a set of demands during the recent meetings that were initiated with the help of the Afghan Taliban. Awaiting decision on the demands, the TTP have announced a three-week ceasefire starting from October 01. The announcement of this development came after Prime Minister Imran Khan during an interview with TRT World had said that “we are in talks with some of the groups [among TTP] on a reconciliation process.” There has been an uptick in terror attacks by the banned TTP in the northern areas of the country. In most cases, the target of these heinous attacks has been the law enforcement agencies with scores of commanders being brutally martyred or kidnapped. In some instances, civilians have also been attacked, such as, the bus blast in September carrying Chinese nationals, or bombing of girl’s schools have also been reported. In the wake of this, a ceasefire seems like ‘good news’ but only that it is not. It comes with strings attached. The demands put forth by a tribal leader from North Waziristan on behalf of the TTP are: de-merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), permission to ‘commanders’ for carrying weapons, and release of prisoners.
The merger of FATA in 2018 with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was a pragmatic decision considering that tribal areas were once a major threat of terrorism and militancy. De-merger of it will only undo the progress Pakistan Army had made in at least 10 operations it had led in the northern areas since 2001. Secondly, permission for TTP ‘commanders’ to carry weapons negates the very amnesty offer the federal government had made as it required members of the militant outfit to denounce violence and give up arms. More importantly, release of prisoners can lead to civil unrest in the country as it would act as salt on the wounds of families who had lost their love ones owing the terror attacks orchestrated by the TTP, including the Army Public School massacre. There is no easy way to deal with this difficult situation. Considering the sensitivity of the matter, the leadership in Islamabad needs to consult the opposition parties in the parliament to arrive at a consensual solution.