Pakistani authorities have reached a ‘tentative understanding’ with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to agree on a peace deal that would end terrorism in the country. Dawn quoted sources privy to the development as saying that a ‘direct’ and ‘face-to-face’ dialogue took place between Pakistan government officials and the Taliban in the Khost province of Afghanistan.
A ceasefire across the country has been agreed upon, and the government has decided to release some key TTP leaders in a bid to build confidence ahead of further talks.
The report said that the number of militants who would be released remains unclear, yet this number is likely not more than two dozen. The source was further quoted as saying, “These are foot soldiers, not senior or mid-level commanders.” It added that the government was testing the waters while being cautious.
The ceasefire will come into effect after the release of TTP men, as per the sources. The truce is said to be a month-long and may be extended if the negotiations move in the right direction. Who is representing Pakistan in these talks with the TTP remains unclear.
Further, the report says that Taliban’s Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani has been acting as a mediator between Pakistan and the TTP. It was he who brought the two parties on the dialogue table, another source reportedly said.
It was further reported that a ‘workable solution’ is being evolved by both sides who are reviewing multiple proposals during the negotiations.
Meanwhile, Ministry for Information and Broadcasting confirmed the development in a message to journalists, but later told them to discard it and wait for another statement on the matter.
Last month, Prime Minister Imran Khan had said that the Pakistan government was in talks with ‘some groups’ of the banned TTP, adding that Pakistan will forgive them and they will become ‘normal citizens’ if the talks succeed.
The PM had added that these negotiations are taking place in Afghanistan. Imran Khan issued these remarks in an interview with Turkish news channel TRT World.
“In fact, some of the Taliban groups actually want to talk to the Pakistan government for reconciliation and peace,” he said.
When the interviewer asked if the government was in talks with the TTP, the PM had replied, “Well, some of them. There are different groups that form the TTP. So we are in talks with some of them.”
When asked what the talks were about, the PM said that the discussions were about the ‘reconciliation process’.
The PM was then asked if the Afghan Taliban were helping Pakistan in the process. To this, he said that they are indeed supporting Pakistan in a way that the talks are taking place in Afghanistan. In response to a question about whether he expects a deal to come out of these negotiations, the PM reiterated that he did not believe in ‘military solutions’.