ISLAMABAD: The government has decided to form a new committee comprising Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and army officials to directly interact with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

According to sources, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will discuss the decision with negotiators from both sides at a breakfast meeting at the Prime Minister House on Thursday.

There was no official word on the decision to form a new committee, but retired Maj Mohammad Amir, one of government negotiators, said a new team was being formed in which the army would be on the ‘driving seat’.

“We have proposed a new mechanism for negotiations to include those stakeholders who can take decisions on the spot while negotiating with the Taliban,” Irfan Siddiqui, coordinator of the government committee, told Dawn on Wednesday.

Asked about the role of the interior minister and the army in the new mechanism, he said: “It will be up to the government to decide who will have what role in the peace process.”

Maj Amir, a former Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) officer, said: “How can the incumbent committee take all decisions when the army will play the major role?”

He said the committee had recommended to the prime minister that it should be dissolved.

When the Taliban announced a ceasefire on Saturday, Maj Amir suggested that the government and Taliban should hold direct talks because they would be in a position to take important decisions.

“I do not see any relevance now for the government committee as we have succeeded to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table and declare ceasefire,” he said.

“I suggest the government directly interact with the Taliban through a new committee with the army, the governor and chief minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and the interior minister involved in the dialogue,” he said.

He said that since certain sensitive issues would come under discussion in the next phase, the dialogue should be carried out by the government and other ‘decision-making institutions’.

“We now need serious efforts to make the process successful. The army should now be in the driving seat,” he added.

Minister for States and Frontier Regions Abdul Qadir Baloch confirmed that the army was being involved in the dialogue.

“Army has been involved in the process so that it becomes aware of the ground realities and situation in case a military operation becomes inevitable,” he said.

Information Minister Pervez Rashid said he had heard about the proposal about formation of a new committee but was not privy to any decision.

But the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Khursheed Shah rejected the move to get the army involved in the process and said it would have ‘serious consequences’. The government, he added, would be setting a new trend to bring the army and Taliban on the negotiating table.

In the event of failure of dialogue the involvement of army would have “dreadful consequences”, he said.

Former prime minister Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain said: “It is a wrong decision to involve the army in the dialogue process and asking the Taliban about elements who attacked Islamabad district courts is a failure of the government to trace them.”

He said the government wanted to establish its writ in Waziristan but it had no writ even in the federal capital.

About the meeting scheduled for Thursday, Mr Siddiqui said: “Members of the Taliban committee will put forward their proposals before the prime minister to make the dialogue process result-oriented.”

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