Three days after the Pakistan government declared that its peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan were about to enter a “comprehensive” phase, the Pakistan Taliban have done a volte-face. They have announced the end of the ceasefire they had declared on March 1 and extended twice. Apart from leaving the government stumped, the Taliban announcement clearly establishes that when it comes to talks, it is the Taliban that will do all the talking. The government has merely to hang on to their words, as it is bound to do now that the Taliban have also added that the end of ceasefire does not mean the end of talks. The Nawaz Sharif government should be thankful that the Taliban have allowed it this face-saver. Nothing could be worse for the government at this point of time than being forced to admit to the failure of talks. The admission, it fears, might trigger an internal crisis and leave it no option but to proceed with the operation in North Waziristan that every Pakistan government has desperately avoided. It is curious that despite the ravages the Taliban have wrought in Pakistan, they should continue to dictate terms. Not merely that, they should be able to position themselves on the moral high ground so easily. But that is precisely what the Taliban have done over the past month by denigrating the government over the release of non-combatant prisoners, condemning violence (obviously that perpetrated by the military) as haram and castigating the State for its failure to implement sharia. Despite the Taliban’s bloodletting, Pakistan is unable to question them because somewhere down the line, it has perhaps begun to accept the Taliban’s version of what the State of Pakistan should behave like.
The TTP’s idea of Pakistan is not very different from how the Afghan Taliban visualize their State. Not surprisingly, recent intelligence reports show a marked surge in cooperative efforts between the two forces. On the eve of the drawdown, when Pakistan needs its shadow warriors in Afghanistan to seize for it the advantage in the great game unfolding in the neighbourhood, it could not lose its hand by alienating the Taliban. All this means that Pakistan will try to accommodate the TTP as much as possible, if only till the game is settled in Afghanistan, so that it can turn its attention to disciplining the errant at home.