ISLAMABAD: Members of a team of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) nominated negotiators are meeting with the militant group’s top leadership in North Waziristan on Saturday to update them on the progress of the peace talks with the government.
“I can confirm that the government has provided a helicopter at Peshawar to Professor Muhammad Ibrahim Khan and Maulana Yousaf Shah to fly to North Waziristan to meet the TTP’s top leadership,” a top government official, requesting not to be named, told DawnNews.
“They have already been sent on their way to North Waziristan,” he said.
The two members would meet the TTP leadership at an unknown location in the tribal areas and would apprise them of the first round of talks with government negotiators, the source said.
Yousaf Shah is a spokesman for Maulana Samiul Haq, the coordinator of the TTP committee.
Other sources confirmed that the TTP had already convened a meeting of its supreme Shura at an undisclosed location in North Waziristan. The session, chaired by Taliban commander Sheikh Khalid Haqqani, is to be attended by the two TTP committee members.
Negotiators from both sides formally met Thursday for a first round of peace talks aimed at ending the militants’ bloody seven-year insurgency.
The two sides laid down a roadmap in the form of demands from both sides future deliberation, with the government insisting that any negotiations be held within the framework of the constitution of Pakistan.
The peace process was dealt a blow on Friday when a member of the three-man TTP committee – chief cleric of Islamabad’s Red Mosque Maulana Abdul Aziz – rejected the condition of holding talks under the constitution.
Aziz said the Taliban do not recognise the prevailing constitution and that it should be replaced by the teachings of the Quran and the Holy Prophet (PBUH).
The firebrand cleric said he would only be part of further negotiations if a clause is included about the imposition of Islamic law in the country.
When asked about Aziz’s statement, the official said the government had only come to know of this through the media and that no formal message regarding Aziz’s demand have yet been communicated to them by the TTP negotiators.
The government committee is headed by Irfan Sidduqi, who is also the prime minister’s special assistant on national affairs.
Aziz's move threatened to further undermine the talks – the government side had already voiced doubts about the composition and authority of the TTP’s representatives.
The government delegation skipped an initial meeting on Tuesday citing confusion over the militants' team after two members – Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan and Mufti Kifayatullah of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) – pulled out of the negotiations.
—Reporting by Mateen Haider in Islamabad.