Is this an offer TTP cannot refuse? Situationer
The News (Pakistan), Saturday, October 12, 2013
WASHINGTON: What are the terms of engagement for talks that chief spokesman and information minister Pervez Rashid says have already begun between the Taliban and the Nawaz Sharif government. Apparently the TTP is jacking up its negotiating position and military muscle is being demonstrated to get a better start. Bombs all over the country are exploding while any contact with the official middlemen is being denied. Demands have been raised to a total denial of existence of the Pakistani State and its constitution and geographic boundaries. Allegience to Mulla Omar has been reaffirmed and the larger alliance with Al-Qaeda and Afghan Taliban has been underlined.
Yet Hakimullah Mehsud still says he will talk to the Government. Why because he knows his overall strength and position. His loose alliance of overall strength and position. His loose alliance of dozens of warlords is shaking and already infighting has begun with a lot of heads rolled and reshuffled. His No 2 has been arrested in Afghanistan by the US troops, Afghan Taliban have attacked TTP leaders and hideouts inside Afghanistan and reports of Maulvi Fazlullah’s death are circulating all around. His control extends only in North Waziristan and some areas beyond where his allies run the affairs. He is surrounded in a larger strategic and tactical sense by the Pakistani forces.
Mehsud has felt the need to appear on TV, allow journalists to question him and is negotiating through the media by raising his demands, while stating loudly that he will not negotiate with the government through the media.
On the government side, there is a calm and poised position of confidence. The army chief and prime minister have stated loudly, but once or twice only, that neither the Constitution of Pakistan is negotiable nor any blackmail will be accepted.
Having made these statements, officials are quietly working through intermediaries to lay the ground rules for talks. Maulana Fazlur Rehman is reported to be in Kabul for talks with Hamid Karzai and Mulla Baradar is in Peshawar waiting for Afghan Taliban to show up, who are reluctant to meet him inside Pakistan. Likewise, the TTP is suspicious of what Maulana Fazlur Rehman is trying to do.
The real go-betweens, Maulana Samiul Haq and other Ulema, are quiet and working behind the scenes. The army and security establishment have given a free hand to the political government to try a negotiated settlement but failing that a full-scale operation is also not being ruled out.
Imran Khan hopes the TTP will come around after some give and take.In such a scenario what can the Pakistan establishment and government offer to the Taliban to accept living within the constitutional boundaries of Pakistan but having enough autonomy in their areas to run their lives according to the Shariah and Islamic rules they want.
At a recent private meeting between some Pakistanis and some US think tank guys well-connected with the US security establishment in New York, the whole scenario was discussed, imagining the future scenario of a situation in which the nitty gritty is discussed between the TTP and government.
Moving at least two stages forward to discuss what tangible but practical things could be offered to the TTP to satisfy them in terms of holding some sense of political power, a lot of control over their economics and some substantial benefits, a very liberal package to the TTP and all other Fata militants was considered as a starter.
I attended the meeting and noted some of the points of the package that can be offered, a very lucrative and hard to reject deal that could change the face of the tribal areas, bring immense power and riches to the tribal leaders, most of whom would be the present militant leaders.
Without disclosing the names and contents, I can write the points of the package which looks like a huge big cake with cream all over it, which may cost Islamabad some billions for a few years but in return the peace that may come will bring back many more billions elsewhere in the economy, investment, industry, trade and other areas which have fallen on the sidelines because of the law and order situation.
These tangible offers include;
– A completely cost free supply of electricity and gas in all Fata areas.
– Supply of petrol and food items at highly subsidised and reduced prices.
– A total tax free and duty free status to all Fata areas for setting up any industry for at least 10 years. This should include an incentive package for Pakistani entrepreneurs to build suitable industries in Fata.
– Like many Arab countries, a local partner must be given free 15 to 20 percent shares in these industries and in return he should ensure a secure and workable environment for the industry to run.
– Mandatory employment of locals with a minimum wage of Rs20,000 on at least 50 percent jobs thus created. If locals are not available, outsiders may be given these jobs.
– Free education for Fata children within Fata and in universities inside Pakistan, to be paid by the Government of Pakistan.
– Free setting up of quality hospitals in these areas where local doctors should run the affairs.
– All youth, over the age of 18, boys and girls, should be given an unemployment allowance of at least Rs15,000 a month until they find a job, within Fata or in Pakistan or abroad.
– Generous no-interest loans be provided to locals for business, transport and economic activities in their areas including duty free import of buses and vans registered in Fata.
– All Fata residents, with valid ID cards, must get 30 to 50 percent discount in airlines, railways and other government transport systems. These subsidies should be picked up by the government.
– At least 2,000 Fata residents should be sent on free Haj and Umra visits every year at no cost.
– All Fata agencies should be re-structured into smaller units where local leaders should be declared as Nazims, mayors, ameers or whatever name they like, and local affairs should be allowed to be handled by them under Shariah or local tribal laws, customs and traditions through Jirgas and Ulema councils.
– The militants in these areas, with their arms should be regularised as law enforcement forces of their respective areas. They should be given proper training and assistance by Pakistan, where and when needed.
There are some other concessions and points in the package as well but all this package comes to several billion rupees every year but it is a long term investment in the future of Fata and Pakistan.
What the Taliban should give in return is an assurance that violence and fighting will stop everywhere, an environment of peace will be created for all this to be achieved, Pakistan’s territorial sovereignty will be accepted and Fata people will continue to use the Pakistani passport as their travel document.
If these points are acceptable, Pakistan can think of releasing TTP militants under arrest, form Ulema committees and Jirgas to work out the details of these plans and then ultimately when peace starts emerging, slowly withdraw its troops to places where FC and army used to be for decades.
It may all sound too simple and overly optimistic but the people who discussed it clearly said this was based on some wishful thinking for the moment.