Government releases over 100 hardened Pakistan Taliban militants amid peace talks

Pakistan has released over 100 militants belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a banned terrorist group also known as the Pakistan Taliban, amid the ongoing peace talks

Nov 23, 2021
Image
Taliban militants

Pakistan has released over 100 militants belonging to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a banned terrorist group also known as the Pakistan Taliban, amid the ongoing peace talks. The release, officials claimed, is a “goodwill gesture” from the government and isn’t part of the ceasefire understanding, reports said. 

Earlier this month, the Pakistan government and the TTP had announced a month-long ceasefire, which came after the lengthy negotiation brokered by the Afghan Taliban. However, much of the details of the understanding had been kept under the carpet amid public pressure over the government’s decision to negotiate with a hardened terrorist group responsible for killing over 10,000 Pakistanis. 

The Express Tribune reported the release, citing senior officials who added militants had not completed their radicalization program. The government runs a six-month de-radicalization course for arrested militants. 

Recently, the TTP had reportedly put forward three key demands: The opening of a political office in a third country, de-merger of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) from the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, and introduction of the Islamic system in Pakistan. 

Earlier, local journalists in the region had reported that TTP had been demanding the release of their leaders and cadre as part of the confidence-building measures. Reports also suggested many of these militants were shifted to an army cantonment in the northwestern region.

Siraj Haqqani, the head of the infamous Haqqani network and known for his close ties with the TTP, has been playing a crucial role during the negotiations. Haqqani, who is now the interior minister in the interim Taliban government in Kabul, is among the most favored Taliban leaders for the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

Both the TTP and the Pakistan government had formed two high-level committees, which have been regularly meeting in Afghanistan. Prior to the announcement of the ceasefire, two meetings took place in the eastern city of Khost, a known stronghold of the Haqqanis. Later, ISI officials and TTP leaders also met in Kabul. 

In the past also, there have been numerous failed attempts to reach peace agreements. However, what makes it different this time is the Afghan Taliban, Pakistan’s preferred client, as the rulers of Afghanistan. If talks fail, the TTP would come out with greater strength and a legitimized narrative. And, if it succeeds, “It will be Sirajuddin Haqqani’s greatest service to Pakistan so far,” Ihasanullah Tipu Mehsud, a Pakistan journalist, who covers the conflict, said on Twitter. 
 
(SAM)