The Prospect of Pakistan’s Talks with Militants
Pakistan’s Tehrik-e Taliban’s new leader Mullah Fazlullah rejected peace talks with the government of Pakistan immediately after being selected as the leader of the militant group. Mullah Fazlullah’s appointment as the leader of the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) came as a very significant change in the Taliban’s leadership. This is meaning that more hard-line elements of the group have taken the leadership of the umbrella group. Mullah has been one of the most brutal leaders of the Taliban operating in Swat areas near Islamabad. He was ousted from the area after Pakistan’s army launched a military offensive against the militant groups in the region in 2007. Reportedly, Fazlullah has been in Kunar Province of Afghanistan in recent years, operating against Pakistan’s interests beyond the border.
Mullah Fazlullah’s promotion to the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban is virtually meaning that the peace initiative started by Nawaz Sharif’s government has virtually failed. After Hakimullah Mehsud’s death, the Taliban has once again blamed the government of Pakistan for the CIA drone attack and killing of the militants’ leader. The Taliban once again has accused Pakistan’s government of colluding with the United States on the drone attacks which has targeted many of the high-ranking leaders of the militants. As the Taliban has rejected to participate in the peace talks offered by Pakistan’s government, the chance of any peaceful resolution of the insurgency in the country becomes even more unlikely and the prospect of the country’s security seems dark.
On the other hand, the series of events which led to selection of Fazlullah to the leadership of the Taliban also might affect relations of Pakistan and the United States. Pakistan’s officials have expressed angers at the killing and said the attack has foiled Pakistan’s attempts for resuming peace talks with the TTP. The Khaybar Pakhtoonkhwa government run by Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e Insaf Party threatened to block the US supply route to Afghanistan. Though it is less likely that Imran Khans’ party succeeds in closing US supply route to Afghanistan, however, it is quite likely that Pakistan and United States relations once again becomes strained as Pakistan’s government will see itself in growing public pressures.
Pakistan’s government is cautious about the view of its handling of the crisis to the country’s public, who are highly antagonistic to the US drone strikes in the country, and in the meantime less supportive to a war against the militants. Nawaz Sharif’s government is particularly concerned with what the impacts of the recent events would be on the public view of his government’s policies as well as the political consensus in the country for talking with the militant groups.
Sharif’s move to create a political consensus in the country for talks with the Taliban and garner support from the country’s political spectrum for his initiative was considered as a success for him seeking talks with the militants. But now, the support he managed to garner may get shrinking after the failure of the talks with Taliban and differences may emerge between the military and civilian government on the need for military action against the Taliban.