The Pakistan government has reportedly reached an understanding with the banned militant group Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), commonly known as the Pakistan Taliban, to announce a temporary ceasefire in a move that could pave the way for broader peace talks, ending the two-decade-long militancy in its northwestern region, reported Dawn
The Pakistan government has reportedly reached an understanding with the banned militant group Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), commonly known as the Pakistan Taliban, to announce a temporary ceasefire in a move that could pave the way for broader peace talks, ending the two-decade-long militancy in its northwestern region, reported Dawn.
The “direct and face-to-face” talks--mediated by the Afghan Taliban-- between the two sides are being held in Khost, a southeastern Afghan province, for nearly two weeks, Dawn reported citing multiple unnamed sources. Khost province is considered as the stronghold of the Haqqani Network, one of the powerful factions of the Afghan Taliban.
Multiple reports suggested that the government and the militant group may soon announce a nationwide ceasefire, conditional to the release of some TTP foot soldiers as part of confidence-building measures. The release of TTP prisoners is the key demand of the Pakistan Taliban.
“These are foot soldiers, not senior or mid-level commanders,” Dawn quoted a senior official involved in the talks. “We are testing the ground. We are cautious,” he said, adding the number of would not more than two dozen.
“The tentative month-long truce shall be extendable, depending on how these negotiations go forward,” the official added.
The talks, initiated by the government following the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, aren’t the first of its kind. Similar ceasefire agreements were also signed in the past, only to be broken later.
The TTP stepped up its attacks on Pakistani security forces significantly after the Afghan Taliban takeover in Kabul.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network and the interior minister in the Taliban’s interim government, has been playing the role of mediator in talks. Haqqanis, knowns for having good ties with both the Pakistan intelligence agency and the Pakistan Taliban, has emerged as a powerful faction in the Afghan Taliban.
The report also claimed senior leaders of the TTP and top intelligence officials are directly involved in the talks.
Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed during an interview with a Turkish news channel that his government was in talks with the TTP so that they may surrender arms and reconcile in return for amnesty “to be able to live like ordinary citizens”.
Importantly, the government initiative remains controversial as political parties of the country have not been taken into confidence on the issue. Others also warned the government against appeasing the extremist groups.
Earlier reports suggested the TTP, which enjoys a significant support base in the country’s northwestern mountain region bordering Afghanistan, has been demanding autonomy in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan--meaning withdrawal of large government forces--and the imposition of Sharia laws there. The demands, if accepted, would likely fuel similar fundamentalist/extremist movements in other parts of the country, experts warned.
Furthermore, political parties, having a broad presence in the region, fear their political space would shrink further by such concessions.