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The government was bent on negotiations and there was the option of carrots rather than sticks to the insurgents that emboldened them to further their activities and now they are placed in a strong position on the negotiation table. 

The Pakistani government has been engaged in a negotiations process with the TTP since May. The Afghan Taliban is facilitating the process that has given a hope of brokering a deal between the two parties. Though there is still skepticism about any positive result yet due to the involvement of strong mediators, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It is pertinent to mention that there were three agreements between the TTP and Pakistani government in the past yet all these agreements did fail. This article analyzes what steps the government of Pakistan should have taken before starting this negotiation process.

During the previous governments in Afghanistan, there were a number of issues for Pakistan from its north-western border that included the issue of TTP sanctuaries as well. However, the Taliban takeover though changed the dynamics that compelled India to get out of Afghanistan, the issue of TTP remained unsolved and the Pakistani government was assuming the Taliban will take across the board action against the TTP sanctuaries and the Taliban coming back to power will assuage its security concerns. However, the expectation of action against TTP could not materialize the Afghan Taliban despite many warnings from Islamabad and even Pakistan’s National Security Advisor visited Kabul to discuss security issues with the Taliban leadership could not succeed in persuading the Taliban for taking action against TTP. 

In such a situation, Pakistan should have charted out a coherent strategy to deal with the issue of TTP. Pakistan had the following options to pressurize TTP ON one hand and use carrots and sticks while dealing with the Taliban over the issue of TTP on the other hand.

When the Taliban came to power and the TTP and Baloch insurgents’ attacks accelerated in Pakistan, the government should have mobilized its forces in these regions while giving an impression: the government intends to take an action or going for an operation. This step would surely pressurize the insurgents and they would think of other options including negotiations. However, during and after all these attacks, the government was bent on negotiations and there was the option of carrots rather than sticks to the insurgents that emboldened them to further their activities and now they are placed in a strong position on the negotiation table. 

Secondly, the government could also tighten the border security that would stop cross-border movement of the insurgents and they would face restrictions not only in their activities but a psychological fear would be there that in case of any operation against them, they would have no chance to escape to Afghanistan. However, nothing happened on the part of the government in this regard. The government has been offering only negotiations and even an offer was extended by President Alvi to give them amnesty. Such a policy boosts their morale and they assume they have power because the government has left with no option but negotiations. 

On the other hand, the government did not put considerable pressure on the Taliban to take action against TTP. The Taliban are bound to stop any group from using its soil against any country they have pledged in the Doha agreement. Pakistan could offer Taliban some carrots in return to action against TTP and if opt was not acceptable for the Taliban, they had the other option of sticks by taking even severe measures: cutting ties to the Taliban, no political and moral support to them and even the closure of its borders for them. We can see that whenever the border has been closed, it put enormous pressure on Afghanistan. 

Taliban are in a very weak position internationally and they need Pakistan’s support. Pakistan didn’t need them if they did not assuage Pakistan’s concerns. In the post US-withdrawal Afghanistan, Pakistan didn’t play its cards well. Still, it has time to revisit its Afghanistan policy and take some concrete measures to tackle the precarious security situation and hinder any potential threat that may arise. Thus, it’s the need of the hour to pressurize the Taliban and signal actions against the insurgents that will bring them to Pakistan’s terms. 

About the author:

Zafar Iqbal Yousafzai is Senior Research Associate at Strategic vision Institute, Islamabad. He tweets @yousafzaiZafar5  



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