US waiting for result
of TTP-Pak accord,
opposition demand debate

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WASHINGTON: The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issue is still in limbo despite Pakistan Government says that a complete ceasefire agreement has been reached between the two. According to sources, the United States is also following a “wait and see” policy and has refused to give any “specific reaction” to Islamabad’s decision to start a dialogue with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) adding that the two countries still had “alignment of interest” on Afghanistan.

US media reports noted that on Monday Pakistan and the TTP agreed on a “complete cease-fire” as the two sides negotiated an end to years of militancy in the country.

The US media also noted that Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday on a three-day visit — the first to Pakistan by an Afghan minister since the Taliban seized control of Kabul on Aug 15.

US State Department’s spokesperson Ned Price

The issue was also raised at an afternoon briefing at the US State Department where a journalist reminded Spokesperson Ned Price that Washington still considered the TTP a terrorist outfit and asked for official US reaction to the dialogue.

“If we have a specific reaction on the Pakistani dialogue with the Pakistani Taliban, we’ll, of course, let you know,” said Mr Price, adding, “We have been in regular contact with the Pakistani leadership regarding the question of Afghanistan, regarding our approach to Afghanistan and the approach that we have seen expressed by the international community.”

The US government, he said, had discussed this issue with Pakistani officials in the past as well. “We have heard both publicly and privately from our Pakistani counterparts that they too have an interest in seeing to it that the gains, including among Afghanistan’s minorities, including among its women and girls, over the past 20 years not be squandered,” the US official added.

“And so, there is quite a bit of alignment of interest when it comes to Afghanistan, and we’re continuing to have those conversations,” said Mr Price, pointing out that Tom West, the new special representative for Afghanistan, would be in Islamabad soon to “continue some of these discussions in the days ahead.”

The State Department announced earlier this week that Mr West would visit Islamabad later this week to clarify US expectations of the Taliban and of any future government in Afghanistan.

This will be his first visit to Pakistan as the top US diplomat for Afghanistan. Mr West replaced Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, who stepped down this week after a tumultuous three-year tenure in which he also negotiated a peace deal with the Taliban.

Pakistan opposition’s point of view

The opposition in the Senate on Wednesday called into question the government’s belated disclosure that it was in talks with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) sans parliament’s sanction.

Former Senate chairman and PPP stalwart Mian Raza Rabbani, while raising the issue in the house, noted that it was the mandate of parliament to decide on negotiations with a banned outfit. He regretted that parliament had been made irrelevant as it was merely informed about key decisions already taken keeping it in the dark.

The PPP senator was of the view that it would be better to lock parliament if it was to be treated in a way like this. He pointed out that a joint sitting was summoned and an hour back it was postponed. “All the decisions on national security are neither being taken from the platform of parliament nor is it being taken into confidence.”

Opposition leader in Pakistan Senate Raza Rabbani expressing his views on TLP-Government agreement

Mr Rabbani said parliament was not taken into confidence on a decision on giving air corridor to the United States and the information came from the US Congress that Pakistan was in talks with the US on giving air corridor, whereas a resolution was adopted at a joint sitting in 2012 on the terms of engagements that Pakistan would not give air corridor to the US.

Likewise, he said, the information about commencement of negotiations with the TTP was shared by the prime minister during his interview to a Turkish television. He added that the prime minister talked about negotiations with the TTP and after that there was a statement on ceasefire.

However, he said numerous incidents had taken place during the period involving attacks on security forces personnel and precious lives were lost during the so-called ceasefire. “Today again, it is being stated that an agreement on ceasefire has been reached, but if negotiations are to be held then parliament should be taken into confidence.”

The PPP senator said parliament would not endorse the exercise undertaken outside. “The government has no mandate for negotiations with terrorist organisations, as it is the mandate of parliament. If parliament empowers the government, only then it can hold negotiations,” he emphasised.