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Aimless peace talks with Taliban explode

HONG KONG (SE): A series of incidents leading up to the bombing of suspected hideouts of the Taliban in northwest Pakistan on February 19, highlights what the president of the National Justice and Peace Commission, Peter Jacobs, calls aimless peace talks.

Jacob notes that up until May 2013, when elections took place in Pakistan, the Taliban only carried out attacks against specific political parties, but since that date it has widened its gambit to include innocent civilians, members of minority groups and members of the Pakistani military.

UCA News reported on February 10 that Paul Bhatti, the chairperson of the All Pakistan Minority Alliance, an umbrella group of religious minorities, was forced to flee the country.

The news brief says that he told a Pakistani cable news station that he had fled to Italy in order to save his life. However, he said in Italy the trip was prearranged and he would return home.

He is the brother of Shahbaz Bhatti, a former government minister who was assassinated on 2 March 2011. Two men have confessed to involvement in his murder and are on trial in Rawalpindi, but Bhatti says that threats against his family and alliance continue.

On February 12, grenades ripped through a movie theatre in northwest Pakistan killing 13, as members of the Taliban and the government were about to sit down to talks to negotiate a ceasefire.

However, talks failed to get off the ground. On February 18 it was reported that the Taliban had killed 23 soldiers captured in June 2010 and, on February 19, the military deployed jets to bomb suspected hideouts of the insurgency group that has caused bloodshed and havoc across the country.

In an article published in the Friday Times in Karachi on February 14, Jacobs says that the talks were doomed to failure. He notes that by agreeing to the talks in the first place, the government has attributed to the Taliban a status it does not possess.

He also points out that when the Taliban offered to host the talks and guarantee safe passage for government negotiators, its control of territory was recognised.

Jacob says that this is a de facto recognition that the government regards it as a state-actor, rather than a misguided element, insurgency or terrorist group.

He points out that insurgencies usually end up in one of three ways; political autonomy, as in Timor Leste; partial or complete failure, as in the case of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka; or the insurgents are incorporated into the system of government, as in El Salvador or Nepal.

Jacob maintains that in an insidious manner, dialogue with such groups often serves to legitimise the violence, as by and large, successful talks only lead to the third outcome—incorporation into the political system.

“However, their success usually comes out of a legal or moral claim,” Jacob notes, whereas terrorism makes claim to neither.

He points to South Africa as a remarkable exception, but says it was made possible because of the moral authority of the African National Congress, which it could be argued legally stood in parity with the South African government and morally perhaps above it.

However, he argues strongly that the Taliban cannot make any such claim, as it has shown itself to be nothing more than a terrorist operation. He also argues that the government lost the plot when it offered peace talks instead of turning up the heat after the death of former leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, causing the fragmentation of the Taliban forces.

“Assuming a moral or legal equation exists between the Taliban and the government of Pakistan is hard to defend,” he argues, “because the state is assigned to protect the life and liberty of the citizens, whereas the Taliban only has credentials starting and ending with human rights violations.”

 

He says that now only fear remains, as all that is left is to judge whether the attempted talks lost more ground than they gained.

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