One of the first aims of incoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after his party was swept into office by a decisive election win was to start peace talks with the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) aimed at reducing the level of violence nationwide. He hasn’t taken office yet but he was already sending out feelers for intermediaries, with some promising results.
That peace process appears to be gone before it even started today, dying as so many random Pakistani civilians have in the hail of US Hellfire missiles fired from drones.
The TTP has announced that following yesterday‘s US attack, which killed the group’s second-in-command Wali-ur Rehman, they will no longer participate in any talks, and will furthermore retaliate against Pakistan for failing to stop the drone strikes.
Stopping the drone strikes was also expected to be at the top of the Sharif government’s agenda, but even though Sharif hasn’t even formally taken office yet the TTP says the attack suggests this was an empty promise, and that Pakistan’s government remains permissive of the drone campaign.
The Obama Administration has historically shown a strong opposition to Pakistan making deals with its internal Taliban factions, and this isn’t the first time that a drone strike has come at seemingly the worst possible time, foiling a peace process before it gets too much momentum. The incident puts Sharif in a tricky position, but may cement his campaign promise for a dramatic rethink of US-Pakistani ties.