KHAR, Dec 10: The fugitive deputy commander of the outlawed Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, has confirmed he is in peace talks with the government and that an agreement is in sight.

He said the government had released 145 members of the group as a “gesture of goodwill” and the militants had pledged a ceasefire.

“Talks with the government are in progress and both sides are likely to sign a peace deal very soon,” he told Dawn on phone from an unknown location on Saturday.

Fata additional chief secretary Fazal Karim Khattak, however, denied peace talks or contacts between the government and militants.

“Faqir Mohammad’s claim is baseless and a pack of lies,” Mr Khattak said.

He said the government would hold talks with only those people who surrendered weapons and gave up militancy.

Maulvi Faqir said if an agreement was signed for ceasefire in Bajaur Agency, the TTP would be able to sign a comprehensive peace deal with the government in Swat, Mohmand, Orakzai and South Waziristan as well. “Bajaur will be a role model for other areas.”

Maulvi Faqir parried a question about the basis for the negotiations.

Maulvi Faqir had signed a peace deal with the government after security forces launched an operation against militants in Bajaur and dismantled their hideouts. He then reportedly moved to Kunar province in Afghanistan.

The local administration also denied that Maulvi Faqir had returned to Bajaur’s Mamond tehsil in Bajaur and said “the administration doesn’t have any information about the TTP commander.”

Agencies add: Maulvi Faqir said the Taliban were negotiating with the help of local tribal elders in Bajaur.

“These peace talks are continuing only in Bajaur but certainly we will start such peace talks in other areas after we reach a written agreement,” he said.

Previous peace deals between Pakistan and militants have rapidly unraveled, and were criticised by the United States and at home for allowing militants space to regroup before launching new waves of attacks.

In late November, two senior Taliban commanders confirmed peace talks with the Pakistani government in South Waziristan tribal district.

“We are satisfied with these talks, and want to initiate such talks in other areas,” Maulvi Faqir said.

The commander refused to give details of the negotiations.

“Talks are going in right direction and soon we will be able to sign a written agreement,” he said.

At the end of Sept, Pakistan’s government pledged to “give peace a chance” and talk with its homegrown militants.

Maulvi Faqir said the government had realised that there was no military solution to the conflict in Pakistan. “We have no wish to fight against our own armed forces and destroy our own country,” he said.

“There has been development in our peace talks, but the government would have to show more flexibility in its stance, and restore the trust of Taliban by releasing their prisoners and stop military operations against them.”

He said that Pakistan and Afghanistan should unite against what he called foreign occupations by non-Muslims.