In an interview today with the Associated Press, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari insisted that his government remains open to possible negotiations with the Taliban, and that in fact such openness never stopped.
“We never closed the dialogue,” Zardari insisted, saying that “we had an agreement, which they broke.” He appears to have been referring to the Malakand peace deal, which ended in a massive military invasion that displaced millions of civilians.
The reality of the Malakand case however is somewhat unclear however, as the government made its deal not with the Taliban but with the Tehreek-e Nifaz-e Shariat-e Muhammadi (TNSM) while the groups that “broke” the deal were said to be affiliated with the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which never had more than a secondary presence in the region. Once the fighting broke out, however, the government used it as an excuse to arrest the TNSM’s leadership en masse.
Zardari is facing growing questions about his government’s ability to tackle terrorism, as well as the evidence that the largely independent Inter-Services Intelligence Agency (ISI) has been backing the Afghan Taliban all the while, even as the Pakistani civilian government’s attempts to combat them (at US behest) has turned most of the tribal areas into constant warzones.