Prime Minister Imran Khan has offered general amnesty to the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). He said the government was in talks with some groups of the banned outfit. Foreign media reports say the government has already set up a special cell for the purpose. On the other hand, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said he was unaware of any dialogue with the militants. It points out some confusion among the government circles about talks with the militants, who have recently stepped up their attacks against the security forces and civilians.

It is a fact that Pakistan has successfully weeded out terrorism from its soil after successive military operations against terrorists. It has won the battle against the militants, though they carry on occasional attacks on the security forces and civilians in border areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Though talks are always welcome in any situation, war or peace, yet many analysts are shocked at the timing of the offer and they believe it would undermine the country’s position of strength against the militants, who have largely been driven out of the country. They fear it may embolden the terrorists and they would step up their attacks.

In an interview to foreign media, Prime Minister Imran Khan offered general pardon to the TTP, provided the banned group laid down weapons, disclosing that the government was in talks with some groups of the outfit seeking reconciliation. “In fact, some of the Pakistani Taliban groups want to talk to the government for peace and reconciliation and we are in talks with them. There were different groups that had formed the TTP. We are in talks with them. It’s a reconciliation process,” he reiterated. He said the Afghan Taliban were facilitating the talks being held in Afghanistan. However, when asked if the Afghan Taliban were acting as mediators, the premier explained: “Since the talks are taking place in Afghanistan, so in that sense, yes.” He said he never believed in military solutions. When asked why TTP militants were attacking the Pakistani security forces if the group was in talks with the government, he responded: “I think that was a spate of attacks, but we are talking. And there might not be any settlement, but we are talking.” He said he had expressed the same opinion about the US-Taliban talks. “I do not believe in military solutions, I am anti-military solution and as a politician I believe political dialogue is the way ahead.” Earlier in September, President Arif Alvi had suggested that the Pakistani government could consider giving an amnesty to TTP members who were not involved in criminal activities, laid down their weapons and agreed to adhere to the Constitution of Pakistan. Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi had also articulated the same offer, stating that the government would be “open to giving” a pardon to TTP members if they promised not to get involved in terrorism and submit to the Constitution.

However, many analysts and the opposition parties have questioned the move without taking the parliament into confidence, arguing that it would only add to the pains and grief of the families of martyrs. It is the right of the families of martyrs to decide whether the government should hold talks with the TTP or not, they argue. Some say the TTP holding talks with the government was not breaking news but the premier’s statement might sabotage the process and put the Afghan Taliban in a difficult position in case they were facilitating the talks.

To humiliate the government, the militants have refused to lay down their arms or accept the country’s Constitution. The government had also pinned high hopes on the Afghan Taliban to rein in the TTP and force it to stop attacks on Pakistani soil but the Afghan Taliban spokesperson termed it Pakistan’s internal issue and asked it to solve the matter on its own. It shows the Afghan Taliban have either no control over the TTP or they are not willing to help Pakistan. Instead, the TTP has stepped up their activities against Pakistan and frequently targeted military and civilian officials since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August. The Taliban had promised not to allow Afghan soil to be used against any country but the TTP is using its soil to mount terrorism in Pakistan. The Taliban have not only failed to deliver their promises to the world but also betrayed Pakistan, which is often accused by the US and its allies of having sympathies with them and helping them take over the country.

For many Pakistanis, the Afghan Taliban and the TTP are two faces of the same coin. Many analysts say Pakistan cannot wait for long for the new Afghan government to make good on its commitments. They believe Pakistan has offered amnesty to the militants on the prodding of the Afghan Taliban. After the rejection of the government offer by the TTP, Pakistan must upgrade its own internal security instead of relying on the Taliban to control their splinter groups. Pakistan must pursue both options of dialogue and military operation in the fight against the militants. Talks should be held with groups which are willing to negotiate, but there should be no blanket amnesty for those who have committed heinous crimes. The government should also call a session of parliament and discuss the issue to reach a broader political consensus.

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