The government of Pakistan has reached the decision of disclosing the contents of the agreement it has reached with the Tehreek-i-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP) within the next 10 days in the wake of rumors circulating that the military leadership had stepped in and advised against the use of force against the protesters even when the Prime Minister Imran Khan had authorized it as per reports from Dawn.
The parliamentary committee met and discussed issues pertaining to national security on Monday following which the government decided to reveal the agreement it has signed with the TLP.
According to reports, participants in attendance of the briefing told Dawn that the senior military officials had briefed them on the agreement and the reasons behind keeping it a secret all this time.
As per these officials, the main goal was to get the TLP protesters off the streets to return to normalcy. In this regard, there were concerns that disclosing the contents of the agreement at an early stage could potentially trigger a public debate that could have hampered its implementation which was connected to the ending of the protest. According to reports, the agreement can now be disclosed since the TLP has called off the protest.
Talks with TTP and TLP
However, in order to reach an agreement, the matter pertaining to the protesters marching on to Islamabad despite all obstacles laid by law enforcement agencies. According to sources, the Prime Minister had authorized the use of force against the protesters which was then relayed to the military leadership that reviewed the operational dynamics and the probable consequences of using force against the protesters. The leadership then calculated the casualties that could result and the impact on public opinion if force was used against the crowd.
As per reports, Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa explained all the pros and cons of making the move to the gathering of the political and military leadership during the National Security Committee meeting which was held on October 29. According to reports, the Army chief informed the leadership that if they were willing to face the consequences of the move the army would do as instructed.
The military leadership had advised against the use of force as they did not see this as a solution. Hence, it was decided to choose negotiations to settle down the situation. In order to do that Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman was flown in from Karachi as he was seen as an authority who could mediate the talks as a senior Barelvi cleric.
Senior officials who participated in the talks are of the view that the result of the negotiations is ‘absolutely in favor of the state’ and that the TLP will have no reason to regress to violent protests again.
The information minister earlier confirmed following the briefing that the government and the TTP had decided on a ceasefire while these negotiations were in progress in an effort to reach a deal. According to reports, high-level sources shared with Dawn that the government’s calculation is that it has a window of around six to eight months to enter an agreement with the TTP from a position of strength. Following are the reasons based upon which the government has made this assessment.
(1) India had provided the TTP based in Afghanistan with support in terms of money and in order to facilitate the outfit in launching terror attacks in Pakistan. After the power dynamic changed in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, the TTP has now lost that backing. However, there is a possibility that TTP might gain back the support after a few months when India tries to gain its footing back.
(2) At the moment the Taliban are increasingly dependent upon Pakistan’s support which may not be the case in the following months once more international players enter the equation. At present Taliban can push the TTP into entering a deal that favors the Pakistani government but the situation could change in the following months.
(3) Pakistan’s military and counter-terrorism capacity rely heavily on the TTP and this is strengthened by the fact that border fencing between Afghanistan and Pakistan is almost complete.
The members in attendance at the meeting of the parliamentary committee on national security were told that Pakistan’s ‘red lines’ with regards to the negotiations with the TTP were clear: TTP must accept the constitution and laws of the land and there is no room for compromise in this context. According to reports, those members of TTP who were involved in heinous crimes would be taken action against in adherence to the law. Only ‘foot soldiers’ may be released.
Another important development is that for the purpose of ensuring that TTP and other terrorists do not get access to the lethal weapons left in Afghanistan by the Americans, Pakistan is purchasing a huge cache of these weapons from the government of Taliban government. According to estimates, the US forces left behind around 200,000 deadly weapons. Taliban are in need of the money while Pakistan is willing to take all steps to stop TTP fighters from getting access to the weapons currently in possession of the Taliban.
The negotiations with the TTP are being led by intelligence officials, the military leadership communicated to the participants of the parliamentary committee on national security the agreement will be presented to the political leadership for final approval. This could mean that the parliament will have a chance to debate the agreement before it is officially accepted by the government. According to reports, in case the government rejects the agreement, the military would return to kinetic actions against the TTP.
As per reports, one source said, “However conflicts usually end on the table. In another six months, anything could happen in Afghanistan.”