Monday, April 14, 2014

Daily Times Editorial April 15, 2014

Government-army tensions In a press conference on Sunday, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar admitted that some tensions had arisen in recent days between the government and the army, but these were more in the nature of ‘misunderstandings’ and would soon be resolved. He argued that civil-military coordination and harmony in the 10 months since the present government took office have been better than ever before in our history. The government and the army are on the same page as far as the policy towards terrorism is concerned, he emphasized. If there are differences, they are more differences of opinion, not differences on the policy per se. The talks process is supported by the army, the minister clarified. Referring to the remarks of a couple of federal ministers on the Musharraf case that evoked a statement by the COAS regarding maintaining the dignity and interests of the military, Chaudhry Nisar said this was an ‘irritant’ that too would soon be smoothed over. On the controversy that has arisen of late regarding the freeing of non-combatant Taliban prisoners, Chaudhry Nisar asked the pertinent question that if the prisoners were released from internment centres under the control of the army, how was it possible that they were released without the consent of the army? The release of 19 prisoners so far would be followed by another 13, after the talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) resume. Although the minister did not specify a date for the resumption of the talks, delay in which he ascribed to one of the members of the government’s negotiating committee being unavailable, sources spoke of the talks resuming very soon. There was no deadlock in the talks, Chaudhry Nisar argued. The minister’s remarks were at odds with the Taliban side’s intermediary Professor Ibrahim of the Jamaat-i-Islami. The professor’s view in an interview with foreign media on Sunday was that there are many odds against the talks/peace process, largely because of the trust deficit between the two sides. He also asserted that the government and the army were not on the same page as the military had serious reservations about the government’s approach. He also revealed that the released prisoners list had not been shared by the government. Were the government to share the list, it would assist in the release of the Taliban’s non-combatant hostages, prominent amongst whom are Shahbaz Taseer, Ali Haider Gilani and Professor Ajmal. An interesting aside regarding these three innocent hostages is the statement by Chaudhry Nisar that their release had not yet been taken up with the Taliban but would follow a resumption of the talks. That throws the release of Taliban prisoners in an even worse light: the government conceding the incremental release of prisoners without extracting at the very least the reciprocal release of hostages. Professor Ibrahim’s suggestion in this regard merits attention. The good professor also underlined the role of the infighting between TTP factions in creating a stalemate in the peace process, although the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid stated that the infighting had nothing to do with his organisation. He said it was ‘merely’ a misunderstanding between the two factions and was on the way to being settled. It merits attention that the ‘misunderstanding’ between the Sajna group and followers of the Hakeemullah Mehsud faction has led to several dozen deaths and according to latest reports, is still continuing. Not only is factional fighting producing deaths amongst the militants, the age-old tactic of kidnappings in and around the tribal areas has seen a splurge of late. Along with this development, a militant group reportedly opposed to the peace process has had several members killed in Darra Adam Khel by the security forces. The lay of terror land shows contradictory features that are feeding into further confusion about where the process is headed. The ‘ceasefire’, which the TTP has so far adhered to (or so it claims), has yielded continuing attacks, not the least of which are the two attacks in Islamabad. Some Taliban factions have resorted to settling their rivalries through the barrel of a gun. There may not be a ‘deadlock’ in the talks because it is unclear whether, when and where the talks will resume. Despite numerous statements, clarifications, etc, by the government’s concerned ministers, confusion tends to be deepening and getting worse confounded.

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