ISLAMABAD: A day after Interior Minister Rana Sana­ullah claimed the parliament had authorised military leadership to hold talks with outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), lawmakers from within the ruling coalition made it clear that this was not the case.

They said the parliamentary committee on national security was simply informed by the military about talks that were already under way.

“No permission was sought by the military from parliament for holding parleys with the TTP,” former Senate chairman and PPP leader Mian Raza Rabbani told Dawn.

He said the parliamentary committee on national security had been informed by the military that negotiations were taking place with the banned outfit.

He said a very skeptical picture of ongoing negotiations had been given and even at that time nobody knew when these talks had actually started.

PPP, PML-N leaders claim parliamentary panel was simply informed of ongoing talks

He also said the statement of the federal government on the issue of the cessation of ceasefire with the TTP and the increase in terror attacks through a press conference should have been made in a joint sitting of parliament or at least on the floor of the National Assembly which was in session.

“One fails to understand why the government is shy of the parliament,” he said.

The PPP leader said the dialogue and the operation against the TTP was rightly in the hands of the army and, therefore, it would have been appropriate if the defence ministry was also involved in the said briefing.

Mr Rabbani said the recent suicide attack claimed by the TTP in Quetta and the attack on a girls’ school in South Wazir­is­tan was just the tip of the iceberg.

He said it appeared from the press conference of the federal government that it still intended to pursue the policy of “force and appeasement”. This policy, he observed, had been tried and failed in the past.

He said what made the situation all the more complicated was the fragmentation of the TTP and, therefore, mere appeasement would not work.

“It is once again demanded that a joint sitting of parliament be summoned immediately in which all stakeholders be invited to brief parliament on the present situation and to collectively find a way forward,” the PPP leader said.

PML-N Senator Irfan Siddiqui also said the parliament never authorised the military to negotiate with the TTP.

He told Dawn that following a disclosure during the PTI’s days in power, he had asked on the floor of the Senate as to who was in talks with whom, on what conditions and on whose behest and who was the facilitator.

He recalled that when the then PML-N government held talks with the TTP in 2014, it had convened a multi-party conference to take all parties on board on the issue.

He said besides other party leaders, the conference was also attended by PTI Chairman Imran Khan, and the forum had endorsed the idea of the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif to resolve the issue by holding talks.

He said that the PM at the time had also taken parliament into confidence over the issue, and the names of the negotiating team members had also been announced on the floor of the National Assembly.

Mr Siddiqui, who was one of the three members of the team besides Rahimullah Yousufzai and retired Major Amir, said the TTP also formed a team, led by Maulana Samiul Haq.

He said the TTP had also named Imran Khan as the member of the team, but Mr Khan excused himself from the task. He said Mr Khan was represe­nted by former ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand, while Professor Ibrahim of Jamaat-i-Islami was also a member of the team.

He said the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, the then interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and he (Irfan Siddiqui) had gone to Banigala to brief Mr Khan about the progress of talks with the TTP. The then interior minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, had in October last year expressed ignorance about the talks with TTP.

In November last year a short lived ceasefire had been reached between the two sides, which ended in December with the TTP accusing Pakistan of breaching the terms including release of prisoners and formation of negotiating committees.

Efforts to revive the talks were made and reportedly a delegation from Pakistan paid a secret visit to Afghanistan in January this year. The TTP agreed to an indefinite ceasefire with the Pakistan on May 29, 2022. On June 22 military assured the national security committee that no extra-constitutional deal would be made with the proscribed organisation.

Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2022

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