ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Sunday that there was no deadlock in the talks with the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.
He said at a press conference that the talks could not take place last week because some members of the government committee had gone abroad.
“There is no deadlock. It was agreed in the previous meeting of the government and Taliban committees that the next round of talks would begin any time after Sunday.”
The minister said the government would release another 13 ‘non-combatant’ Taliban prisoners ahead of the fresh and ‘crucial’ round of talks to be held in a couple of days.
He claimed that the government was only releasing ‘non-combatants’ and ruled out the possibility of releasing any combatant. “Neither the Taliban have made any such demand nor we intend to release any militant.”
Chaudhry Nisar said that 19 prisoners released earlier were non-combatants.
He dispelled a perception that the government and armed forces were not on the same page on the issue of release of Taliban prisoners. “Most of the prisoners are in the internment centres of the army. So, how it is possible that we can announce release of prisoners without taking them (army) into confidence?”
The minister said the government and army were jointly taking the dialogue process forward. “There can be some difference of opinion but there is no difference of policy.”
He, however, parried a question about laws under which the army had detained the prisoners and now the government was releasing them.
He did not give the number of Taliban prisoners at present in custody of the armed forces or security agencies, declaring it a sensitive matter.
In reply to a question, Chaudhry Nisar claimed that people who had been kept at the army’s internment centres had been counted but the number of other ‘missing persons’ was not known. Even the Supreme Court was unable to get the exact number of the missing persons, he added.
“These people have been under detention for 10 years.” This question, he added, should be addressed to those who had put them under detention.
The minister said the government had also asked the TTP to release ‘non-combatant abducted captives’ in return for the release of more than 30 prisoners as a goodwill gesture. The TTP had already been asked to release sons of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and slain Punjab governor Salman Taseer and all those who had been kidnapped for ransom, he said.
The minister termed the next phase of talks ‘crucial and difficult’. In the next meeting, he said, both sides would come up with a comprehensive agenda that would take the peace process forward.
He once again warned the nation against internal and foreign elements who wanted to sabotage the peace process.
He said he desired that the talks should be held in Peshawar or in another settled area and he had already suggested some places to the TTP. Moreover, he said, there had been reports of fighting between the militant groups in the tribal areas and the government wanted to hold dialogue in a peaceful environment.
Chaudhry Nisar welcomed the TTP statement declaring that attacks on innocent people and market places were un-Islamic and inhuman and said this was the outcome of the peace process.
He lashed out at political parties which had been criticising the government policy of holding talks with the TTP and praised the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf for demonstrating ‘patriotism’ and not doing point-scoring on security issues.
He also lauded the Jamaat-i-Islami and Aftab Sherpao for not politicising security matters.
The minister said the war against terror could not be fought and won by security forces alone and the whole nation would have to unite to win it.
He said cessation of hostilities and violence was still in place and the other side was willing to continue it.