Army not to dictate talks with rebels

March 09, 2014 - 12:23:56 am
ISLAMABAD: A top representative of the Pakistan Army, if inducted in the new committee to be constituted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, will be an important part, but not the sole decision-maker but will be one among other senior delegates.

“In the past, the army clinched several agreements with militants single-handedly, mostly to the exclusion of the civilian governments.

But this time, a military officer would be a major part of the larger body that would consist of those picked up from the government,”  said a credible source, privy to the developments relating to the prospective peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

Not many top leaders of the government including even the cabinet ministers are in the loop over the composition of the new committee by the prime minister. Only Nawaz Sharif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the military top brass fully know what is going on.

The source rebutted the argument of leader of opposition Khurshid Shah, who, while discarding the proposal of having the army nominee in the committee, had argued that if the dialogue conducted by such a body failed to achieve the desired result, the blame for the outcome would fall on the military.

“The army would not be solely responsible for the positive or negative result of the dialogue process. Rather, the entire new committee and its appointing authority, the prime minister, would have to own the outcome,” the source said.

He explained that unlike the past, the government and the army were working in harmony. Any agreement and the question of putting blame on any one side for any repercussions of the negotiations would not arise.

“The Pakistan army is not independently engaged in the peace process with the Taliban and is doing what is agreed with the government after a threadbare discussion.”

The source said that if the talks fail or meet with success, both the government and the military will accept its responsibility and deal with the emerging situation. There would be no blame game, he said.

While concluding nearly a dozen peace accords with the militants since 2004, the army had almost been solely taking decisions.

The civilian leaders of the likes of Zafarullah Jamali, Shaukat Aziz, Yusuf Raza Gilani, Raja Pervez Ashraf and Asif Ali Zardari had not been much concerned with such negotiations since 2002.

The army was obviously the most dominant player even in political matters during these tenures, and the civilian governments were too weak to prevent it from doing so.

The source said that it was now a different ball-game - the civilian government is in the driving seat, the army is being comprehensively consulted every now and then, and decisions are taken only when a consensus emerges.

On the other hand, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman is in favour of opting for the army general. He says it is imperative to take the military leadership on board.