Pakistani security officials take positions after suspected militants attacked Jinnah International Airport in Karachi. (EPA)
The Pakistan government may soon announce that it will go ahead with a military operation against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which claimed responsibility on Monday for a brazen terrorist assault on Karachi airport. Any military operation against the TTP had so far been kept on hold owing to probable peace talks with the militant organisation.
Observers say that the attack will have far reaching implications for Pakistan’s war against terrorism. For one, it strengthens the resolve of the government to take on militants. “Under the present circumstances it is difficult for us to talk to the TTP,” said Rustam Shah Mohmand, one of the negotiators in the talks from the government’s side.
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The Prime Minister’s special assistant, Irfan Siddiqui, said that there is a good chance that talks would be called off.
The Sharif government on Monday summoned an emergency meeting of the Cabinet Committee on National Security to discuss the future of the peace talks. The committee will convene in a day or so with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in the chair.
In April, the TTP decided against extending the ceasefire and said that the government had failed to respond positively. Earlier, the TTP had announced a month-long ceasefire in March as a gesture to continue the peace talks. The government had also made public its decision to halt air strikes on militant hideouts.
While the Sharif government insisted that peace should be given priority, the army warned that the TTP used ceasefire to regroup and re-arm itself. It is expected that the army will now prevail on the Prime Minister to resume the military operation.
There are also reports that there is a difference of opinion within the militia on whether to move ahead with the talks.
There are also questions about who in the TTP umbrella conducted the attacks. In late May, fighters belonging to the Mehsud tribe from North Waziristan and aligned to Khan Syed Mehsud, also known as Sajna, announced that they had parted ways from TTP chief Moulvi Fazalullah.
They indicated that they were willing to sit down and talk peace with the government.
Was this, some say, an effort by a splinter group to sabotage the talks? PTI chairman Imran Khan is of the firm conviction that the attack was done to end peace talks. “This is exactly the kind of response some of the militant groups want from us,” he told the media. Others say that this may well be Fazlullah trying to assert himself and his leadership over the TTP.