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Imran Khan’s talks with the Pakistan Taliban will not bring peace

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In an interview with Turkish media aired on October 1, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed that his government is in talks with the Pakistan Taliban (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP). Following a period of relative dormancy, the TTP has been significantly more active this year. Khan admitted that Islamabad is offering the group a number of rewards – from political amnesty to prisoner releases – in return for laying down arms.

Such a deal does not serve Pakistan’s national interests and it will not work because the TTP, like before, is unlikely to abide by its terms. Aside from their implications for war and peace, the prime minister’s comments were deeply uncomfortable for those who have not forgotten his role in the bad old days of 2007-2014, when the Taliban brought the state to its knees.

In politics, memories can be short. Today, it is worth remembering what role Khan played during the peak of the Taliban insurgency in Pakistan. If all he had done was maintain a rigorous silence during the conflict, Pakistan would have been substantially better off.

Khan was the avatar for a deeply sympathetic position towards the Taliban. Not for nothing did he earn the moniker “Taliban Khan”. By what in hindsight can only be termed an accident of history, the national government between 2008 and 2013 was led by three parties all more or less ideologically opposed to the TTP – the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), and the Awami National Party (ANP). Perhaps not coincidentally, all three today are shadows of their former selves.

From the perspective of pursuing a war against violent extremists, this government make-up was relatively fortuitous. It meant that at the political level at least, if not the public writ large, the country correctly identified the Taliban as a deathly enemy, one that could only be defeated by force.

But Khan stymied any thrust towards aggressive action against the Taliban. Rather than playing a constructive role and preparing the public for a difficult and costly war, Khan did the opposite: he railed against the government and defended the insurgent group.

His rhetoric was not without cost. Given his background as a popular cricketer and a well-known philanthropist, alongside his blunt and uncompromising rhetoric against........

© Al Jazeera

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