The Killing of Pakistani Taliban aka Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud along with his four associates by the drone strike in the lawless North Waziristan agency has jeopardize the proposed peace talks between the Pakistani Government and Taliban. The drone strike came at a time when the government was all set to initiate peace talks with the Taliban to end the bloody cycle of violence in the country that has killed at least 7,000 security personnel and nearly 40,000 people. This drone strike came at the worst time for the government. The environment for this proposed peace process was being built by the Nawaz Sharif government brick by brick since it came to the power moreover it was very much serious to deliver on its election promise to bring peace by talking to Taliban. But now all these efforts for peace have been washed away because of this wrong timing US Drone Strike everything again has to be started from scratch now. Some people are seeing this killing as the deliberate attempt by the United States to derail the peace process even the Pakistani state establishment acknowledging that. Pakistan's interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, described the drone strike as "an attempt to sabotage the talks”.
He said the strike had come a day before a three-member delegation of government negotiators was to head to the north-west to start peace talks with the TTP. Pakistani officials had been expecting the drone strikes to stop ahead of the negotiations so that the right environment for the talks can be made but this strike raises a “Question Mark” on the intentions of the US over the issue of peace in Pakistan. This time peace talks had the backing from the top TTP leadership including Hakimullah but now after being killed Mehsud will not be remembered for the blood he has shed, but as a ‘man who wanted to talk but wasn’t given the chance’ or a man who was betrayed. Pakistan must understand that America is not here to stay forever. By 2014, they intend to pull out and they don’t have much to lose with regards to how Hakimullah Mehsud was killed but for Pakistan, however, it’s a different story. Now, and for years to come, many children in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, will be told stories of the “great warrior” who fought against the American “devils” and in the end he ‘died a holy death’. Any other narrative of the story will not be accepted by most. Moreover direct fallout of this killing will be the vengeance by the Taliban which will claim the lives of many innocent people. Taliban commander from North Waziristan Abu Omar has already issued a statement in which he said our revenge will be unprecedented and they considered the Pakistani government was also "fully complicit" in the drone strike.
Loosely in command of some 30 militant groups in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, Hakimullah Mehsud was responsible for some of the Taliban's most damaging strikes against Western interests in the region, organising repeated attacks against Nato convoys heading through the Khyber Pass region to neighbouring Afghanistan. So by killing him United States has only safeguarded its interest and sidelined the Pakistani interest. It seemed that US thinks that decapitation or the strategy of killing top commanders of terrorist groups is quite important from the counter-terrorism standpoint. But considering the loose structure, vague ideology and motivation of the TTP, this strategy may not work. Organizations like the TTP are never short on leadership hence killing of Hakimullah may not affect the TTP’s continuity in carrying out attacks. A close aide of Hakimullah Khan Said alias Sajnaa is likely to take over as the Ameer (Chief) of TTP. There could be a violent backlash in the form of reprisal attacks in various parts of the country. If the group stages large-scale attacks, it would be an indicator of its strength and viability and the death of Hakimullah will result in more upsurge of right wing forces.
One of the immediate negative effects of this present incident is that it has united the right and extreme right wing political forces of Pakistan. Imran khan and Choudry Nisar are using same language and share explanation of Hakimullah death as conspiracy to derail peace talk. The killing of Hakimullah Mehsud is a serious blow to the TTP, which just months ago lost deputy commander Wali Rehman Mehsud under similar circumstances for the group there is a serious leadership crisis now. Indeed the assassination of a top leader can sometimes be a blessing in disguise because it can bring a stronger and more cunning leader forward. Hassan Nasrallah, for example, has been a devilishly effective leader for Hezbollah, helping the Iranian-backed terror organization to all but take over Lebanon and now spread its influence into Syria. He might never have gotten the chance to lead, however, if Israel hadn’t eliminated his predecessor, Abbas al-Musawi, in 1992. This might happen with TTP as well the new leader Sajna, as he is called, is confirmed as the replacement leader, and his track record is a bloodthirsty one. He is believed to be behind the freeing of almost 400 prisoners from a jail in northwest Pakistan in 2012, and also that year, a co-ordinated attack on an air base in Pakistan. His reputation is of a hardliner and his vowing that suicide bombings will now occur does not bode well for any peace talks.
Earlier on also, a number of leading figures of TTP have been eliminated through drone attacks, these include: Nek Muhammad, Baitullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain, Ilyas Kashmiri, Maulvi Nazir, Waliur Rehman Mehsud etc. Most of these commanders were killed when they showed inclination to enter into negotiations with Pakistan. Hakimullah also met a similar fate. In fact, every time Pakistan is close to find out a negotiated settlement of the militancy issue, and attempts to tame the disgruntled Taliban through parleys, the process is sabotaged by the drone strikes. It’s a high time for Pakistan to safeguard its interest, peace, and stability otherwise it will be dragged again into a violent insurgency for years to come. Pakistani state should understand that it has to come out of the US shadow to have its own strategy for peace work.
(Author is freelance columnist based in New Delhi and Editor of www.viewsaround.com can be reached at email@example.com)