ISLAMABAD: The proposed peace talks between the government and the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) appeared on Monday to be heading nowhere.
While two members of the five-man committee which the TTP had announced on Sunday withdrew their names, the government team waited for a formal contact from the Taliban.
However, Irfan Siddiqui, convener of the four-member government committee, told Dawn that he had a telephonic conversation with JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq, a member of the TTP team.“Maualana Sahab told me that since Imran Khan and Mufti Kifayatullah of the JUI-F have refused to become members of the TTP committee, he will discuss the new situation with Taliban leaders and come back,” he said.
Maulana Abdul Aziz of Islamabad’s Lal Masjid and Prof Mohammad Ibrahim of the Jamaat-i-Islami are the two other members of the TTP committee.
Mr Siddiqui said his committee would meet on Tuesday to discuss the situation emerging after the announcement of the Taliban committee and its two members dissociating themselves from it.
“The first step towards talks will be a solid, fully endorsed set of negotiators from the TTP side. Then we can move forward on other issues such as their demands and what the government expects in return from them,” he said. “We are fully prepared to take the process forward.”
When his attention was drawn to the fact that the TTP had been declared a terrorist organisation by the interior ministry and its top office-bearers named as accused in a series of cases relating to activities against the state, Mr Siddiqui said all those matters could be taken up at the formal meeting between the two sides. “It’s premature to comment on such issues” at this stage.
On Monday morning, the core committee of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf met to consider whether Mr Khan should accept the TTP offer to be on its team for talks with the government.
Appreciating the trust which the TTP had reposed in its chairman, the PTI decided to let former ambassador Rustum Shah Mohmand represent the party in the peace talks.
Mr Mohmand is a member of the committee constituted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last week.
The PTI said inn a statement that it fully backed the peace process initiated by the government and reaffirmed its support for the government committee and for TTP’s plan to announce its own 10-member team for negotiations. The party reiterated that the talks should be held under the Constitution and a ceasefire should be announced by both sides the moment the dialogue begins.
But, according to some analysts, Mr Khan’s nomination by the TTP and then his decision to dissociate himself from the team, have given his detractors some ammunition to use against him.
Talking to reporters, Information Minister Senator Pervez Rashid said the PTI chief had long been pleading for talks with the Taliban and now when the opportunity arrived he refused to grab it.
Leaders of the JUI-Fazl also met in the federal capital and withdrew its former legislator Mufti Kifayatullah from the TTP committee.
Maulana Fazlur Rehman, chief of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, said: “Since our party had neither been consulted nor informed about the government’s decision to initiate dialogue it will not join the current dialogue process.”
The remaining three members of the TTP committee, led by Maulana Sami, also met in the capital to discuss their course of action.
Maulana Aziz told this reporter the committee’s members had expressed the resolve to play their role in bringing the two sides closer to each other for the sake of peace in the country.
“We have conveyed our intention to meet the four-member committee of the government as soon as possible to get the peace talks started.”
Replying to a question, he said the complete implementation of Shariah and release of prisoners were two main demands which the Taliban had made in the past.
In a television programme, Maulana Sami expressed his dismay over the PTI chief’s decision to pull out of the committee.
Despite that, he said he was hopeful of a positive outcome of talks and would soon meet the government committee.