In the northern areas of Pakistan, terrorists have targeted the Gilgit-Baltistan province. The news media has flashed breaking news that unknown gunmen stormed a base camp at the Nanga Parbat freedom meadows and killed eleven tourists. The tourists belonged to China, Russia, Ukraine and Pakistan. Nanga Parbat is one of the high elevation peaks of the mountainous range in the north of the country, a scenic expanse of green pastures, lush valleys and gushing water channels. Each year, when the summer season sets in, foreign tourists head to the northern areas for trekking and mountaineering. The tourists are facilitated by the local administration in their expeditions; however the areas are highly remote and often inaccessible. The terrorists chose the base camp where the hapless tourists were obviously easy targets.
The perpetrators are once again the agents of Al-Qaeda, Taliban and their surrogates. The extremists have lodged a psychological war against the country, a multi-dimensional approach to foment trouble through insurgency, sectarian violence, target shooting, kidnapping for ransom and terrorist attacks involving innocent civilians.
On the other hand the Taliban are preparing to initiate talks with the United States and Afghanistan in Doha, Qatar. The talks are aimed at ending twelve years of war in Afghanistan. The Taliban signaled a willingness to meet demands to keep their flag lowered as the U.S. warned on Saturday that their newly opened political office in Qatar might have to be closed.
The U.S. secretary of State John Kerry, who is in Doha for talks on the Syrian crisis, considered the opening of the Taliban office as a welcome development towards a peace settlement with the Taliban. He encouraged the Taliban to remain part of the reconciliation process, as the American government and Afghanistan’s High Peace Council were ready to negotiate peace.
U.S. Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan James Dobbin has arrived in Doha stating that the United States remains hopeful about the proposed talks. Afghan President Hamid Karzai temporarily suspended participation in talks on Tuesday angered by a sign identifying the office as the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the name used by the Taliban during their five year rule that ended in 2001 after the Taliban were ousted for their support of Al-Qaeda.
The Afghan President also suspended separate negotiations with the United States over a security agreement aimed at providing a framework for some U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan after the Americans and their Nato allies withdraw combat forces by the end of 2014.
The initiation of the peace process with the Taliban has been welcomed by Pakistan. The Taliban in the past have denied the peace offer on various pretexts. Their agreement to sit at the negotiating table is a positive sign. These talks will be a test for diplomacy and the negotiating skills of the interlocutors. The most important factor will be protecting the interests of the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan while reaching any agreement with the Taliban. A durable and sustainable peace in South Asia will not be established unless all three of them present a unified position.
1. Dawn News June 21-23, 2013
2. BBC News June 21-23, 2013