After Hakimullah Mehsud's death in a drone strike recently, the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) now have a hardliner, Mullah Fazlullah, as their new leader.
As opposed to his predecessor who showed some level of interest in peace talks with the government, Fazlullah has outright rejected any negotiation. Hence, the effort on the part of the government to give peace talks a chance has been further reduced.
This is the same commander who, from 2007-2009 committed atrocities in Swat including burning of schools, public flogging and beheading, references to which Malala Yousafzai made in her book, co-authored with Christina Lamb. Fazlullah was given a chance in Swat for peace negotiation but never agreed. In 2009, when the Pakistan army sent troops and ended Fazlullah's rule in Swat, he escaped with hundreds of his loyalists to eastern Afghanistan. It is from these mountains that he continued to orchestrate attacks in Pakistan and purportedly planned for Malala to be shot dead.
After Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's recent visit to the U.S, even Washington nodded an agreement to peace talks, although a halt on drone strikes was not agreed to as suggested by Pakistan. Drone strikes are unpopular in the country because of the civilian death toll and highly debatable regarding their effectiveness, as popular opinion is, that for every militant killed, many more are incited to take revenge. However, after the CIA drone strike killed Hakimullah Mehsud, other than one or two religious political parties, others felt that a terrorist was rightly killed -- just at the wrong time as a major chance for peace talks to be held for the following day was lost.
In the past, any time there was intimation for peace talks to emerge; they would be prevented by bombings and violence in the country. If TTP continue with its suicidal attacks inside the country, the government will have no option but to fight back. Chances are for a military action to try and eliminate them but that itself will create an upheaval, as TTP will respond with further attacks. The Pakistani Taliban do not believe in the writ of the constitution and want to enforce its own interpretation of sharia law in the country. Pakistan is by and large a society of moderates and Islamic laws are already enshrined in our constitution but the TTP want to impose their own inhumane version.
In 2014, as the American government is expected to withdraw a major number of its forces from Afghanistan, it will create a vacuum that may allow Taliban to take over. This is why Pakistan will have to play a very important role making it imperative for the United States to maintain a close association with regard to being allies.
Despite the opposition to drone strikes, there has been no sympathy for the attack on Hakimullah Mehsud among a section of liberals in Pakistan. Fazlullah's role as TTP chief with a no talks stance could bring a new reign of terror in an already unstable region -- far worse than that of his predecessor who already killed thousands in one year. After a very long time, the military and the government are both on the same page as far as dealing with hard liners is concerned. During the last five years, the military has accepted that it will not dictate its own policy but will follow whatever the government decides. Previously, attempts for talks have failed repeatedly and a military action is now seen as the only possibility, just not the solution. Flushing out terrorists from this region will be a colossal operation for the new government in what may be a new wave of violence for Pakistan.