Pak Parliament allows Army to go-ahead for talks with TTP
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Saturday a parliamentary committee had given a green signal to the military to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban, according to a local media report.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks in the country’s history. Its top leaders are based in Afghanistan from where they intensified attacks in Pakistan after the Afghan Taliban seized control of Kabul last year in August.
The Prime Minister’s Office confirmed in June the Afghan government was meditating the peace talks between the government and the TTP.
“The military leadership would inform the committee about any progress in the talks and the matter would then be debated in parliament,” the interior minister said.
He confirmed the talks would be held under Pakistan’s constitution, adding that nothing which exceeded the limits of the constitution would be negotiated or agreed with the TTP.
Former prime minister Imran Khan made headlines in October 2021 when he revealed, in an interview to the Turkish media, that Pakistan was holding talks with the TTP.
Khan said the government was offering political amnesty and was willing to agree to release local Taliban prisoners to reach an agreement with the group.
The talks with TTP broke down several times in the past, with both sides blaming each other for violating their commitments.
Days after Imran Khan’s disclosure, his interior minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed surprised many by saying that he was unaware of any such dialogue.
Rana Sanaullah recalled how former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had invited the political leadership, including Imran Khan, to PM House for devising a consensus strategy to tackle the issue after the Army Public School Peshawar attack in 2014.
Speaking at a press conference, Rana Sanaullah said the military leadership would inform the committee about any progress in the talks and the matter would then be debated in parliament.
The minister said that talks would be held only under the Constitution of Pakistan, adding that neither anything over and above the Constitution would be negotiated nor would any such agreement be reached.
On June 22, the military had reassured the political leadership that no extra-constitutional concessions would be given to the banned TTP in the ongoing dialogue and any deal made with the terrorist group would be subject to parliamentary approval.
The assurance was given by the military leadership at a meeting held with the political leaders at the Prime Minister House.
This was the first meeting between the national political leadership and the military, which has been negotiating with the TTP in Afghanistan with the help of the Afghan Taliban. The meeting was arranged after Pakistan Peoples Party, a major partner in the ruling coalition, lodged a protest for not being taken on board about the talks.
A senator from Jamaat-i-Islami, Mushtaq Ahmed had also recently raised the issue of keeping talks with TTP secret from the parliament. At the time, Senator Irfanul Haq Siddiqui had said these talks had not been initiated during the term of the present government.
“We were also unaware who is holding these talks and where they are taking place. Things became clear at a recent meeting at Prime Minister’s House,” he had said.
Earlier, speaking at a ceremony at Police Lines, the interior minister said that the loan agreement signed by the PTI government with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) was ill-negotiated and not implemented in letter and spirit by the previous regime. He said the country had such an ailing economy that IMF has kept Pakistan on toes only to get $1 billion. “We tried our best and presented every argument that we should not increase prices of fuel but to no avail.”
He said the ruling party had thought about dissolving the assemblies to get fresh mandate but the country could have faced threat of default if it was handed over to caretaker set-up.
TTP refuses to give up demand
The proscribed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has stated that it would not budge from its demand for the reversal of the merger of Pakistan’s erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) with the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
In an interview published on YouTube, the chief of the outlawed group Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud said that negotiations between the TTP and the Pakistani government were in progress but no major breakthrough had been made. This remark comes on the heels of the meeting between TTP and a delegation of tribal elders in Kabul to negotiate an extension of a truce with the Pakistani Taliban. The outlawed group are a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who grabbed power in Kabul last August, after the US drawdown.
“Our demands are clear and especially the reversal of Fata merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is our primary demand which the group cannot back down from,” Mehsud was quoted as saying by Dawn in the video interview.
“The talks have yet to reach a conclusion,” said Noor Wali. The head of the outlawed group confirmed the Afghan Taliban were facilitating the negotiations, adding that if the Pakistani government showed “seriousness”, then a breakthrough in talks would be possible.
Notably, Pakistan Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah had recently ruled out the reversal of the FATA merger with Khyber which was done through a constitutional amendment in 2018.
Earlier, TTP had on June 2 announced an “indefinite ceasefire” in view of the “substantial progress” made in talks with the Pakistani government during a round of meetings in Kabul. The announcement had after a 50-member Pakistani tribal jirga — including a federal minister,
representatives from the KP government and tribal elders — joined the peace talks.
Since the Taliban took control of Afghanistan, Pakistan has increasingly complained of attacks across the border from Afghanistan, an issue that has become a source of diplomatic tension.
Regional experts say the rise of TTP enabled by the Afghan Taliban’s steadfast support will expand the threat of terrorist attacks in Pakistan, including against civilian targets.
Since its founding in 2007, the TTP has emerged as the most influential and violent anti-Pakistan terrorist outfit in South Asia. Unlike its Afghan namesake, the TTP does not enjoy favourable relations with Islamabad.
Despite the organization’s pledges to the contrary, international observers have expressed concerns that the Taliban could once again transform Afghanistan into a safe haven for international terrorist organizations, as had been the case prior to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. (ANI)