ISLAMABAD: Following ceasefire announced by Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Foreign Minister and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Sunday formed a committee to engage other political parties for taking up the issue in parliament.

According to the PPP secretariat, the party chairman in continuation of the party meeting on Saturday discussed the issue of terrorism in the country, particularly in the light of recent developments in Afghanistan involving Afghan Taliban and the banned TTP.

The three-member committee formed by Mr Bhutto-Zardari comprises Qamar Zaman Kaira, Sherry Rehman and Farhatullah Babar.

It may be mentioned that after an in-depth discussion on the issue on Saturday, the party had reiterated its position that the parliament alone was the best forum for a conversation on the issue.

In the first week of this month, the banned TTP formally announced an indefinite ceasefire with Pakistan following two days of talks with a grand tribal jirga in Kabul. The group has set a major condition of reversal of the merger of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to cut any peace deal with Pakistan.

The PPP meeting discussed questions like the purpose of the entire exercise, the forces behind it and the desired objectives.

In a related development, speakers at a consultation here were of the opinion that Pakistan needed to be “assertive” and should negotiate with the TTP from a “position of strength”.

Lawmakers, academicians, former diplomats, retired army officers and experts on security and Afghan affairs participated in the discussion on ‘Afghan peace and reconciliation: Pakistan’s interests and policy options’ organised by Islamabad-based Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS).

Former corps commander and inspector general (IG) of Frontier Corps retired Lt Gen Tariq Khan was not in favour of talks with the banned group. “If we have to talk to them, we should only negotiate on the terms of surrender,” he said.

Referring to the condition of the TTP about reversal of Fata’s merger, he showed surprise and questioned how a militant group can demand to govern a part of Pakistani territory.

Former national coordinator of the National Counter Terrorism Authority (Nacta) Ihsan Ghani was not hopeful that Pakistan would be successful in signing any peace agreement with the group. “If this happened, any such agreement would be an eyewash and short-lived.”

Published in Dawn, June 13th, 2022

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