PESHAWAR: A day after Prime Minister Imran Khan told an international news channel that his administration was in talks with some factions of the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the militant network denied Pak reports of talks, any split within its ranks and ruled out cessation of hostilities against the country.
In an interview with TRT World on Friday, Imran Khan said some groups within the militant conglomerate were willing to negotiate for peace and reconciliation, adding that the government was willing to forgive them once they laid down their arms.
According to a report of Radio Mashaal, the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has rejected claims by Pakistan’s prime minister that the government is holding talks with the militant group to reach a cease-fire.
Soon after Imran Khan’s statement, the TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, quickly issued a statement saying that the group is united and there are no divisions in its ranks. The TTP’s spokesperson also called on the group’s fighters to continue attacks.
Hafiz Gul Badadur group
Meanwhile, a faction of the Pakistani Taliban on October 1 ordered its fighters to observe a cease-fire until October 20. The Hafiz Gul Bahadar group directed its fighters to observe a cease-fire for 20 days and halt all their operations against the Pakistani government and security forces.
Local sources told Radio Mashaal that the leader of the Haqqani terrorist network and the new interior minister in the Taliban’s self-proclaimed government in Afghanistan, Siraj Haqqani, negotiated the cease-fire deal between the Pakistani government and the Gul Bahadar faction of the Pakistani Taliban.
The same sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, said a senior commander of the Gul Bahadar group visited Peshawar and Islamabad in August to meet senior Pakistani security officials. They said several of the group’s members were released by the government following the talks.
A Pakistani security official told Radio Mashaal that talks were launched in March 2021. Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who is in his late 50s, fought alongside Afghan resistance forces against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s. He emerged as a local Taliban commander in Pakistan’s Waziristan region after the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
In 2006, he reached a peace deal with the Pakistani government that included promises not to allow foreign militants to operate in Waziristan. In 2007, Gul Bahadar joined the TTP when the group was formed by its then-chief Baitullah Mehsud.
However, Gul Bahadar did not originally support the TTP’s violent campaign against the Pakistani government. That stance changed following a Pakistani military operation in 2014 in the North Waziristan tribal district.
Gul Bahadar was reported to have died along with several of his key commanders in an air strike in the Dattakhel area of North Waziriatan in December 2014. However, reports about his death later proved to be false.
Gul Bahadar is believed to have close relations with the Haqqani Network, a close ally of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Local sources told Radio Mashaal that he is hiding across the border in Haqqani Network strongholds in Afghanistan’s Khost province and surrounding areas.
TTP spokesman denies Imran Khan’s statement
The prime minister Imran Khan’s statement, which was widely quoted in local and international media, was followed by reports that a TTP district shura in Waziristan had announced a 20-day cease-fire and its members would not attack the Pakistani security forces.
However, the top leadership of the militant network said it was not looking for a peace agreement with the Pakistani authorities.“Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has never announced a cease-fire,” its spokesperson, Muhammad Khurasani, said in a statement. “TTP fighters should continue their attacks wherever they are.”
Khurasani described TTP as an “organized movement,” saying there were no fissures or factions within the group. “The movement has a collective policy which no one can deviate from,” he added.
Last month, Pakistan President Arif Alvi and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi announced the government was willing to offer amnesty to TTP members if they renounced violence and adhered to the country’s constitution.
However, the militant network stated in response it was proud of its “struggle” and was not seeking forgiveness from anyone.
The Pakistani prime minister, who said he did not believe in military solutions, continued to hope during his recent interview that a deal was likely come out of his government’s negotiations with the militant network in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s information minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain also maintained in a video message that repentant TTP members should get a chance to return to “normal life.”
A security analyst, Saleem Khan, told Arab News the government was also negotiating a peace deal with the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group in North Waziristan, though he added the faction was never a part of the Pakistani Taliban.
He maintained that these talks were complicated since most of the armed groups in the territory were sympathetic to TTP and had pledged allegiance to the leader of the banned group, Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud.
“There are complications in the negotiations because they [the government] are holding talks with Hafiz Gul Bahadur while the main entity is Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan,” he said. “Unless they address the TTP challenge, talks with Hafiz Gul Bahadur will not help. In any case, his faction did not cause too much trouble to the government in the past.”
A conglomerate of several armed factions, TTP was banned soon after its emergence in Pakistan’s tribal areas in 2007 since it started killing Pakistani civilians and security forces.
Inspired by Al Qaeda ideology, it targeted the army headquarters in Rawalpindi and massacred more than 100 children at a school in Peshawar.
The network also took responsibility for shooting Malala Yousafzai, who later became the world’s youngest Nobel laureate, in her hometown, Swat, for advocating girls’ education.