Pakistan hints amnesty for TTP if surrender arms
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan government may consider amnesty for Pakistani Taliban if its members lay down their arms, abandon the group’s ideology and adhere to the country’s constitution, said President Arif Alvi during an interview on Friday.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella organization of militant factions, emerged in Pakistan’s tribal territories in 2007 and proscribed within a year since it was killing Pakistani civilians and security forces with impunity.
Inspired by Al Qaeda ideology, the group attacked the Pakistan Army’s General Headquarters in October 2009 and massacred more than 150 people, mostly children, at a school in Peshawar in December 2014.
More recently, it claimed responsibility for a suicide attack against the Frontier Corps in the country’s southwestern Balochistan province in which four soldiers were killed and 21 others injured.
“The Pakistani government said it would think whether or not it wanted to offer amnesty to those [TTP elements] who were willing to lay down their down arms, return to the country and accept its constitution,” the president told Dawn News television while answering a question about his country’s negotiations with the Afghan Taliban over the issue.
Alvi acknowledged that Pakistani Taliban still constituted a threat to his country.
However, he added that the government had received messages from “second- or third-tier leadership” of the Afghan Taliban that TTP militants could stay in their country but would not be allowed to continue their anti-Pakistan activities.
Asked if the government was actually willing to pardon hardcore militants, he said he was referring to people who had “not remained involved in criminal activities.”
“It can’t happen that we fully disown several thousands Pakistanis abroad,” he added. “So, we will have to adopt one way or another [to address this issue].”
The proscribed Pakistani militant network was frequently described as an Indian proxy by officials in the past. Pakistan also accused previous Afghan administrations of harbouring its members and allowing them to launch attacks in its cities.
The administration in Islamabad tried to mount pressure on the Afghan Taliban to deal with the militant network after the fall of Kabul on August 15, but the Afghan faction only offered guarantees that the anti-Pakistan conglomerate would not be allowed to operate from Afghanistan.
In the context of the Afghan Taliban’s assurance that they would not allow Afghan land to be used for terrorism against Pakistan, host Nadia Mirza asked the president whether the TTP was no longer a threat for Pakistan. “TTP [remains] a threat,” President Alvi responded.
But he suggested it had been conveyed to Pakistan by the “second- or third-tier leadership” of the Afghan Taliban, which last month captured control of the country following a lightning blitz, that, “We (Afghan Taliban) will declare that they (TTP members) can live here in [Afghanistan] but they must not do any activity against Pakistan.”
Moreover, he said, the Pakistani government stated that it would “consider whether an amnesty should be given or not” to the TTP members who laid down their weapons and accepted the Constitution of Pakistan.
At this, Mirza interjected and asked the president: “General amnesty?” to which Alvi replied: “Yes yes, Pakistan will think about it [for] the people who lay down their weapons.”
“Does that mean there will be a pardon for people like Maulvi Fazlullah?” Mirza asked, referring to the ruthless former TTP chief who was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan in 2018.
“I am not taking anyone’s name,” Alvi responded. “I am talking about the people who, before anything, have not remained involved in criminal activities. The government could consider making a declaration of amnesty [for the people] who forgo their TTP ideology and want to come with the intention of adhering to the Pakistani Constitution.”
Such an amnesty could be one of the ways to “establish peace”, the president said.
“It can’t happen that we fully disown the however many thousand Pakistanis who are abroad,” he added. “So one way or the other will have to be adopted.” It wasn’t clear whom the president was referring to at this point.
For years, the TTP unleashed deadly attacks on urban centres across Pakistan from their bases along the Afghan border, where they provided shelter to an array of global jihadist groups including Al Qaeda.
But a massive military offensive launched in 2014 largely destroyed the group’s command and control structure, dramatically reducing insurgent violence throughout Pakistan.
Sporadic attacks targeting security forces, however, continue. Just last Sunday, the TTP claimed responsibility for a suicide attack near a Frontier Corps (FC) check post in Quetta in which four paramilitary personnel were martyred and 21 others injured.
During the interview, President Alvi also said it would be a “bonanza” for Pakistan if peace was established in Afghanistan because of the immense development opportunities in the war-ravaged country.
He also said the Afghan Taliban’s reported desire for their country to join the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor and other development projects could be “definitely considered” because it would benefit the entire region.
Regarding the new administration in Afghanistan, Alvi said the Taliban should follow the examples of ‘Sulah Hudaibiya’ and anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela to grant amnesty to rivals and bring all stakeholders to the negotiating table.
He noted that the Taliban had made it clear that “India would no longer be allowed to use the Afghan land”, adding that this would bring an end to the ease with which New Delhi used to conduct anti-Pakistani activities through the border.