PESHAWAR: The government of Pakistan and the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakis­tan have agreed on a temporary ceasefire during talks in the Afghan capital on Wed­nesday, spokesmen from the Afghan Taliban and TTP confirmed in separate statements.

Formal talks between ‘high-level committees’ of the two sides that began in Kabul on Monday made “significant progress on related issues”, tweeted spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanis­tan Zabihullah Mujahid. “Talks were held between the Government of Pakistan and the Taliban Movement of Pakistan with the mediation of the Islamic Emirate.”

“During the talks a temporary ceasefire was also agreed upon,” Mujahid said. While he did not give any time frame for the ceasefire, TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani in a separate statement said the ceasefire would last till May 30.

There was no official word from the Ministry of Interior or the Inter-Services Public Relations either confirming the talks or the ceasefire reached between the two sides.

No word from ISPR, interior ministry as TTP claims ceasefire will last till 30th

The announcement of the ceasefire follows reports of an informal cessation of hostilities between the two sides following behind-the-scene contacts through tribal intermediaries and official channels and after the government agreed to release two important TTP figures as major concession to clear the last major obstacle in the resumption of negotiations.

To meet a key TTP demand, the government in April freed former Swat TTP spokesman Muslim Khan and commander Mehmood Khan after securing presidential pardon for the two, Dawn has learnt reliably. The two had remained in military custody since the announcement of their arrest by the ISPR in September 2009 and their subsequent conviction by a military court and confirmation of their death sentences by the army chief in December 2016.

Muslim Khan, a green card holder and fluent in English, was a high-profile figure representing Mulla Fazlullah-led Swat TTP and known for granting interviews to international publications and broadcast organisations. Fazlullah aka Radio Mullah — a nom de guerre he picked up for being on his FM radio channel heard throughout the Swat Valley — was killed in a drone strike in Afghanistan’s Kunar province in June 2018.

The two militant commanders have not been handed over to the TTP so far and remain in Pakistan but have been allowed to communicate with the TTP leadership to assure them of their wellbeing till negotiations between the two sides reach a settlement.

Attempts by Dawn to get an on-the-record confirmation of presidential pardon from Interior Minister or the President House failed. Press Office of the President House reached out for comments last month had simply said it had no such information in that regard.

In his statement, TTP spokesman Khurasani said the ceasefire had been announced on the demand of the 32-member committee of the Mehsud tribe and 19-member committee of tribes from Malakand division. However, he said talks were underway between the heads of the committees representing government of Pakistan and the TTP.

TTP sources say their leader Mufti Noor Wali and other senior leaders were in Kabul for the talks. Unconfirmed reports on the social media said senior official figures from Pakistan were participating in the talks being mediated and held under the supervision of the IEA interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani.

Knowledgeable sources say that considerable work has gone into preparing the grounds for the current negotiations that include several rounds of tribal jirgas both in Pakistan and across the border with the TTP leadership. Some groups are open to the idea of abandoning war and return to the country of their birth, there were some hardliners adamant to continue the path to wage “a holy war” inside Pakistan.

The IEA, say these sources, are nudging them to reach a peaceful settlement and return to Pakistan. Several jirgas have been held in different tribal districts to explore ways and means to absorb and guarantee safety and security of the militants who wish to return and live peacefully.

The government, these sources say, has also drawn up different proposals to ‘adjust and accommodate’ different tiers of the TTP, from leadership to tactical commanders to ordinary foot soldiers and their families.

Earlier a month-long ceasefire that had come into effect in November 2021 collapsed days after its announcement, with the TTP accusing the government of backtracking from its commitments.

Published in Dawn, May 19th, 2022

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