Major-General Sanaullah, General Officer Commanding 17 Division, Swat, was on his way back after visiting troops deployed at the Pakistan-Afghanistan border when an improvised explosive device (IED) blew up his vehicle, Upper Dir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Lieutenant Colonel Tauseef Ahmad and Sepoy Irfan Sattar also died in the attack.
Being billed as a setback to talks with the Pakistan Taliban, the attack has provoked a strong response from Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Monday. He said in a statement that while it is understandable that they give peace a chance through a political process, “no one should have any misgivings that we would let terrorists coerce us into accepting their terms. The army has the ability and the will to take the fight to the terrorists”. He reiterated the “Pakistan Army’s resolve and unflinching commitment in fighting the menace of terrorism, in accordance with the will of the nation and at any cost.”
Sunday was marked by other acts of terrorism in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) near Bannu and Miranshah, killing Frontier Corps personnel. These incidents come after the recent All Parties Meeting called by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif where a dialogue process with Pakistani Taliban was stressed. Reportedly, even the army was on the same page as the government on this.
However, sources familiar with the area said that though the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has taken responsibility, it does not have a presence in that region, mostly under the control of Mullah Fazlullah, who ran a parallel administration in Swat before the army was called in. Lieutenant General (retired) Talat Masood, chief coordinator of Pugwash, said it will not be so easy after the army chief’s statement for the government to initiate dialogue.
He felt that even if it was not the work of TTP, there were many groups which owe allegiance to it. While the government has strongly condemned the incident, there are those who feel the talks should go on. Lieutenant-Colonel Shafqat Saeed (retired), a defence analyst said that though TTP acted irresponsibly, the government should not pull back from talks. Instead, it should force the TTP to exercise restraint.Mr. Sharif is away on a three- day trip to Turkey and the while the incident has been condemned, little is being said of the future of talks. Rustom Shah Mohmand, former Pakistan ambassador to Afghanistan said the government, after deciding on talks, should have appointed a point person to take it forward.