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Photo Source: The Express Tribune

Pakistan Reader# 702, 26 December 2023

Was Pakistan closer to a deal with the TTP?  More questions and confusion than any answers and clarity



The National Assembly has abrogated its responsibility to the Establishment in pursuing any meaningful and consistent policy towards the Pakistan Tali

D. Suba Chandran

On 25 December, the Express Tribune reported a meeting between the interim Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Pakistan’s Senator Mushahid Hussain Syed at Tehran, in which the former had claimed that Pakistan was closer to a deal with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but did not materialize because Islamabad backed out. According to the Express Tribune report, quoting the Senator’s meeting with Muttaqi, “majority of the issues were sorted out” during the meetings “between Pakistani officials and the TTP leadership” and “were close to striking a deal brokered by the Afghan Taliban.” The report also said, “the only outstanding issue was the merger of erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).” According to the report, Pakistan’s conditions included the following: “accepting the writ of the state, adhering to the Constitution and law and complete disarmament.”
This is not the first time, there have been reports of Pakistan engaging with the TTP toward making a deal, brokered by the Afghan Taliban. Since the formation of the TTP, the relationship between the State and the Pakistani Taliban has been cyclic: deal-making, its collapse, high-profile terror attacks, national anger, claims of TTP as an existential threat, and promise to finish the TTP. While Imran Khas was blamed for being soft on the TTP, the Establishment in Pakistan pursued a strategy – between fighting and deal-making.
 
Back to the Muttaqi assertion that Pakistan and the TTP were closer to a deal. Why would the Establishment be keen to pursue a deal and allow the Afghan Taliban to broker it if it views the TTP as an existential threat to Pakistan? Is the Establishment incapable of fighting the TTP and winning the War? Or, is it unwilling to pursue that option? Unfortunately, not many in Pakistan, including the Parliament, are willing to ask that question and accept the Establishment’s strategy as a commandment. The National Assembly has abrogated its responsibility to the Establishment in pursuing any meaningful and consistent policy towards the Pakistan Taliban.

Will the Pakistan Taliban ever agree to any of the following conditions - accepting the writ of the state, adhering to the Constitution, complete disarmament, and accepting the merger of FATA with the KP? What is the Establishment’s endgame vis-à-vis the TTP?
And why would the TTP want to accept the state's writ and disarm itself? What would it gain in return?

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