TTP announces ceasefire as PM reveals peace talks in Afghanistan



The banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Friday announced a three weeks ceasefire, starting from Friday till October 2I, hours after Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed in an interview with a Turkish news channel that the government was in talks with some groups of the outfit.

A North Waziristan-based TTP group confirmed that the talks with the government were ongoing. A tribal leader from North Waziristan, who had been involved in the talks between the government and the TTP, said that the talks were going on for some time.

Earlier, Prime Minister Imran said in an interview with TRT World that the negotiations were being conducted in Afghanistan, adding that dialogue was the only solution and that the government would “forgive” the members if an agreement was reached.

“We are in talks with some of the groups on a reconciliation process,” Imran said. He explained that the talks were aimed at having the members lay down their weapons.

When asked if the Afghan Taliban were helping in the process, Imran said: “The talks are taking place in Afghanistan, so in that sense yes.”

The prime minister said that he was expecting a deal to come out of the talks but “again nothing is certain”. “I am anti-military solution, and as a politician, I believe political dialogue is the way ahead. We forgive them and they can become normal citizens.”

Read more: Govt is engaging with TTP factions for peace, reconciliation: PM

Later, the TTP announced a ceasefire, from October 1 to October 20. They also said that ceasefire deadline could be extended if the negotiation process progressed successfully.

The tribal leader from North Waziristan said that the TTP had put forward three demands, including de-merger of the erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata); and permission to commanders for carrying weapons, and release of prisoners.

The tribal leader added that some of the conditions had been agreed. According to sources, an 11-member TTP delegation was holding the talks with the government, while some “influential” Afghan Taliban leaders and other tribal elders were playing the role of mediator.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Secretary General Nayyar Bokhari termed the prime minister’s announcement of the talks a “very sensitive statement” and demanded that a session of parliament be called immediately to discuss it.

“The statement of forgiving TTP is akin to rubbing salt on the wounds of martyrs’ relatives,” Bokhari said, demanding that the government clarify the terms on which the talks were being held with the outlawed TTP.

“Why were parliament and political parties kept uninformed about negotiations with the TTP?” he questioned, adding that a “negative perception” would be built about Pakistan at the international level because of such steps.

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In a separate statement, PPP Information Secretary Shazia Marri said that the PPP “strongly condemned” such a big step by the government without taking parliament into confidence. She said that the prime minister’s statement had raised a number of questions.

“On what basis and under what conditions are talks being held with the TTP? Why was parliament not taken into confidence? Why did the government feel the need to hold secret talks with the TTP in this way?” she asked.

Meanwhile, another opposition party, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) had convened a grand tribal jirga in Peshawar on Saturday. A tribal leader said that about 120 delegates would participate in the jirga and important decisions were expected.

Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry said the members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, who wanted to shun the path of violence, should be given a chance to return to the mainstream.

In a video message, he said the statement of Prime Minister Imran about TTP was being discussed right now and the need was to share its background with the people.

The state of Pakistan had gone through enormous ordeal as it sacrificed hundreds of lives in the war against terrorism, he added.

The minister said there were various splinter groups in the TTP and amongst them some individuals wanted to honour their pledge of allegiance to the country by returning to the mainstream.

The peace loving individuals, who wanted to move forward in accordance with the constitution of the country, should be allowed to return to lead a normal life, he added.

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Fawad said the country had defeated terrorist organisations like al Qaeda in Pakistan and completely ended India's conspiracies.

Right now, Pakistan was stronger and determined than it was ever before, he added. The minister said the past policies of state were formulated in peculiar circumstances.

A total of over 3,000 alienated elements who endured Indian conspiracies had already returned to the mainstream, he added.

The minister said numerous people and families who wanted to stay loyal to the country but could not in the past, now wanted to pledge allegiance to the country.

He said Prime Minister Imran had set principles, adding, "We want to move forward on the basis of these principles to bring back those people who lost the right path in certain circumstances and now want to live life like an ordinary citizen while abiding by the constitution of the country."

(With input from APP)

(This story has been published from The Express Tribune feed, without modifications to the text)