Sharif briefed on talks held with TTP

Published February 17, 2014
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and chief coordinator of the government's negotiating team Irfan Siddiqui called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at PM House. — Photo by APP
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and chief coordinator of the government's negotiating team Irfan Siddiqui called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at PM House. — Photo by APP

ISLAMABAD: Will the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announce an unconditional ceasefire to let peace talks move ahead was the question discussed at length during a meeting the prime minister held on Sunday with chief coordinator of the government’s negotiating team Irfan Siddiqui and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

Mr Siddiqui briefed the prime minister on talks held by his committee with the Taliban negotiators on Friday, a day after a bomb attack on a police van in Karachi which left 13 police commandos dead.

The incident took place at a time when the prime minister was in Turkey and virtually derailed the peace process.

A source privy to the meeting told Dawn that the huddle after the TTP had accepted responsibility for the bomb blast was of critical importance in terms of gauging reaction of the prime minister whether he still wanted to go ahead with the dialogue. “The only face-saving for the prime minister at the moment is to call for an unconditional announcement of ceasefire by the TTP leadership.

Otherwise, the peace process appeared to have hit a dead-end.

“The government will keep its doors open for talks and is ready to take the process forward, but first the TTP will have to demonstrate its seriousness by ensuring that nobody under its umbrella resorts to violence. It should also take effective measures against those loosely organised militant organisations which are continuously killing people on their own,” the source said.

But they (participants of the meeting) remained wary if a ceasefire would be effective because since Jan 29 when Prime Minister Sharif announced the peace talks and constituted a four-member committee, the military, by and large, has stayed quiet – it neither retaliated nor conducted any operation in the tribal region against militants.

On the other hand, the TTP and its affiliates have killed dozens of innocent people across the country over the past couple of weeks and put the government on the back foot.

Talking to Dawn, Irfan Siddiqui said he briefed the prime minister because he was out of the country when the tragic incident had taken place. “I briefed him about the meeting between the two committees which unanimously condemned the killing of policemen and called upon the TTP leadership to effectively renounce violence for the success of the peace process.”

He said the meeting was restricted to mere briefing and the prime minister issued no particular orders.

About two demands which, according to media reports, the TTP wanted to be met for ceasefire, Mr Siddiqui, who is special assistant to the prime minister on national affairs, said a formal response would be given once the TTP committee conveyed those terms.

“The two committees have evolved a mechanism under which they either talk face-to-face or correspond in writing. Let the reported conditions reach us through proper channel of the three-member committee nominated by the TTP,” he said.

The media reported on Sunday that the TTP Shura had linked the ceasefire to the exchange of non-combatants and withdrawal of the army from South Waziristan.

When contacted, Maulana Yousuf Shah, a personal representative of JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq, who also travelled to North Waziristan to get input from the TTP leadership following the first round of talks, said: “I have no news today.”

The source privy to Sunday’s meeting, however, said the participants had discussed the possibility that the TTP leadership would announce a ceasefire and weighed options on ways of responding to it. “If the TTP declares ceasefire, the government, sooner or later, will have to respond,” the source added. Mr Siddiqui, the only representative of the government on its four-member committee, reiterated the stance that the government was willing to go an extra mile provided its efforts were reciprocated in the same vein.

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