Pakistan rules out negotiations with TTP

Published April 4, 2024
Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch speaks at a weekly press briefing in Islamabad on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV
Foreign Office Spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch speaks at a weekly press briefing in Islamabad on Thursday. — DawnNewsTV

A day after a senior Afghan Taliban leader urged the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Islamabad to sit together and negotiate for peace, the Foreign Office (FO) ruled out talks with the militant group.

On Wednesday, Muhammad Nabi Omari, deputy interior minister of the interim Taliban government in Afghanistan, made the remarks at an Iftar gathering in the southeastern Khost town.

“We ask the government of Pakistan and advise the brothers (TTP) who are fighting with them to come together and talk,” he said. The deputy interior minister, however, did not address the presence of TTP in Afghanistan.

The Afghan Taliban have been privately urging Pakistan and the TTP to engage in direct negotiations to end over a two-decade-long conflict that has claimed thousands of lives and seen massive displacement of people in the tribal region straddling Afghanistan.

But this marks the first time a senior Afghan Taliban figure has chosen to publicly speak on the subject, not only calling for direct engagement between Islamabad and the TTP, but also chiding the militant conglomerate.

Attempts by the Afghan interim regime to “facilitate” talks between the two sides in the past have ended in deadlock, prompting Islamabad to accuse Kabul of providing sanctuary and urging it to take action against the militant organisation.

The Afghan Taliban have strenuously denied that the TTP is using the Afghan soil and have been urging Pakistan to look inward to address its internal security problems.

Relations between the two countries have been strained ever since Pakistan carried out airstrikes in Khost and Paktika in retaliation for the death of seven of its soldiers in a suicide bombing in North Waziristan in March.

Responding to queries at a weekly news briefing on Thursday, FO spokesperson Mumtaz Zahra Baloch ruled out talks with the TTP.

According to state broadcaster Radio Pakistan, she said Pakistan expected Afghan authorities to take urgent action against terrorist outfits and their leadership for the crimes they were committing and the terrorist incidents they were responsible for in Pakistan.

She further said that Pakistan remained committed to fighting against all terrorist outfits which had targeted Pakistan and the symbols of Pakistan-China friendship.

Earlier during her briefing, Baloch said that Afghanistan was discussed at the 19th regular meeting of the secretaries of the security councils of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) held in Kazakhstan on April 3.

Secretary of the National Security Division, Waqar Ahmad, who led the Pakistan delegation at the SCO, warned about the “far-reaching consequences about terrorists acts for the entire region and stressed the need for adopting a comprehensive approach to address the root causes,” Baloch said.

“He termed peaceful and stable Afghanistan a strategic imperative for regional prosperity and called upon SCO member states to follow a holistic policy and build broad convergences with SCO region to address multifaceted challenges confronting Afghanistan,” Baloch said.

‘Source of terror’

Last week, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif had blamed Afghanistan for not making any progress to root out terrorism and called for further tightening of border controls to mitigate the threat.

“In view of the increase in terrorist incidents, there is a need for a fundamental change in the border situation. The source of terrorism in Pakistan is in Afghanistan and despite our efforts, Kabul is not making any progress in this direction,” he said in a post on X.

He regretted that despite Taliban administration being aware of the hideouts of terrorism, terrorists were operating freely against Pakistan from their territory. “Cooperation from Kabul (for tackling terrorism threat) is not available,” the minister emphasised.

His comments had come against the backdrop of a string of attacks over the past few days including those on Gwadar Port Authority complex and naval base in Turbat and the suicide attack on the van carrying Chinese workers in Shangla.

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