A month-long clash between Pakistan and the outlawed terrorist alliance known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was largely held up on Tuesday for the 15th day, as the two adversaries negotiate a peace deal , in which neighboring Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban mediate the talks.
The TTP, commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, comprises about two dozen banned terrorist groups and has been carrying out deadly terrorist attacks against security forces as well as civilians in Pakistan for many years.
The terrorist organization’s leaders and fighters have taken refuge in Afghanistan, fleeing military-led counter-insurgency operations against their strongholds in Pakistani border areas. Thousands of terrorists were also killed in the process.
Officials in Islamabad say the TTP remains a threat from its sanctuaries on the Afghan side and has approached the neighboring country’s new Taliban government to help contain the threat.
Afghan government foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaki confirmed during his official visit to Islamabad earlier this month that his government had mediated peace talks and an upcoming temporary ceasefire. Muttaki did not elaborate but said he hoped the process would be settled.
Pakistani officials with knowledge of meetings with the TTP stressed that talks are “still at a very early stage” and it is “too soon” to expect any progress or to discuss possible outcomes.
A security official told the Granthshala that the government had only initiated the process to determine whether TTP terrorists were “ready to surrender before the Constitution of Pakistan, to obtain national identity cards by themselves as the National Database Registration Authority”. (NADRA)” and are ready to lay down their arms.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, insisted, “These are red lines for further negotiations, as he was not authorized to publicly discuss the status of the peace effort.”
The TTP has long called on the government to withdraw troops from the northwestern districts along the border with Afghanistan and restore the traditional semi-autonomous status of the region, which was once a stronghold of local and foreign militants, including the Afghan Taliban. served as. The TTP has also called for the implementation of an Islamic system in Pakistan in accordance with the group’s own interpretation of Islamic law.
But Pakistani officials have long dismissed those demands as unacceptable, rejecting any discussion on the constitution, troops or the status of the border districts, which once served as TTP strongholds and harbored the Afghan Taliban. also provided.
“The purpose of the 30-day ceasefire is to see whether they (TTP) are serious or not and want to take the process forward,” Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yousuf told a local television channel last Saturday. “But there is nothing important that can be shared in terms of progress in talks at this stage,” he said.
“The red lines are very clear; no one will be allowed to challenge the Pakistani constitution, enforce its system of governance or laws, and resume violent activities,” Yusuf said.
Pakistan says hardline TTP members who are involved in serious crimes against the state will face legal action, but the group’s “foot soldiers” may be offered an apology in the event of an agreement to allow them to live in peace. and be encouraged to start again. in Pakistani society
The temporary ceasefire was in effect from November 9 to December 9 after the government allegedly released unidentified prisoners of the terrorist organization. TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani announced at the time that the two sides had agreed to set up negotiating committees to try to move the negotiation process forward.
Khurasani, in a brief statement on Tuesday, rubbished media reports of the government releasing 100 of his prisoners. He also denied that his group had already placed any demands on the negotiating table.
Khurasani said, “The negotiating committees are not sitting at the table, so it is too early to discuss the terms and conditions. TTP has not put any conditions yet.”
Role of the Afghan Taliban
A senior Afghan Taliban cabinet member in Kabul has offered some details about his role in facilitating Pakistan’s peace talks with the TTP, but he requested anonymity to protect his neutrality.
“Our role is exclusively that of a mediator and a mediator cannot take sides. We have urged both sides to show understanding and be patient while conducting these negotiations,” he said.
“Both sides are happy that we are mediating the talks. Sometimes we sit between the two sides and sometimes we talk to both of them separately,” the Taliban official said.
“We have already made it clear to the TTP that whether they accept (Pakistan’s terms) or not, they cannot use our (Afghan) soil against anyone,” he insisted. The Taliban cabinet member said the process needed to be carried out “smartly” at this stage.
Asked whether Kabul would be willing to use force at Pakistan’s request, the Taliban leader said, “For the mediator to threaten them (TTP) with consequences like ‘we will expel you, we will act on you’.” Is not justified.” To oust the TTP from Afghanistan in case the talks fail.
“Talks have just begun and have made remarkable progress in the form of a month-long ceasefire,” he said.
He said the Afghan Taliban expected the peace process to “gradually strengthen” and the ceasefire would expand. The Taliban leader said that all conflicts are ultimately ended through talks because “blood cannot be washed with blood.”
For their part, Pakistani officials remain skeptical about future progress and whether the Afghan Taliban will crack down on TTP fighters if the peace process has led to the long partnership between the two groups in their 20-year war in Afghanistan against the United States. Destroyed. his associates.
Officials also acknowledge that the nascent Taliban government lacks the ability to counter extremist groups such as the TTP as they deal with the deep humanitarian and economic crisis facing Afghanistan.
“We cannot completely rely on the Afghan Taliban to be the guarantors of any potential peace with the TTP as they themselves are fighting for survival in the wake of economic sanctions and the possibility of Afghanistan descending into chaos again ,” Pakistan warned. Officer.
The United States and the United Nations have designated the TTP as a global terrorist organization.
Since seizing power in Afghanistan last August, Taliban rulers have repeatedly assured neighboring countries and the world that no terrorist group will be allowed to operate and threaten others from Afghan soil.
The counter-terrorism pledge is part of a slew of international demands for the Taliban to claim a much-needed diplomatic recognition for their nascent government in Kabul.