NOVEMBER 6, 2021
Last month, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that his government was in talks with the TTP as part of a “reconciliation process”. – (REUTERS/File Photo)
Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has demanded the release of a number of prisoners as a ground for talks with Islamabad aimed at achieving a full ceasefire negotiation, according to news agency Reuters. The Afghan Taliban have facilitated two rounds of preliminary talks between TTP and the Pakistan government, and Haqqani Network chief Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is said to be close to Islamabad, was helping the talks, reported Reuters quoting people familiar with the development.
Pakistan has banned the terror organisation which has carried several attacks in the country since its formation in 2007. TTP leadership, composed largely of ethnic Pashtun militants, fled to the border areas of eastern Afghanistan after the Pakistan military intensified its operation in 2014. With suspected links to Al Qaeda, Pakistan Taliban seek to establish their harsh interpretation of Sharia law in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The US state department has also designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).
TTP commanders have termed the demand of releasing prisoners as confidence building-measure to gauge the sincerity of negotiations.
“We aren’t too hopeful of the immediate results of the talks but our leaders had demanded the release of prisoners if they are sincere in meaningful negotiations,” Reuters quoted TTP commander from Afghanistan’s Kunar province as saying.
The report suggests that the two sides have agreed to not issue any statement supporting or opposing the peace process until the accord is signed.
On one hand, Pakistan has long been accused of supporting the Afghan Taliban financially, militarily and by providing intelligence inputs in their fight against the Western-back Afghan government which was ousted in August. On the other, it is also wary of the threat posed by the TTP in Pakistan which has a similar motive of establishing an exclusivist set-up of Sunni Pashtuns in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
TTP terrorists have killed and wounded thousands of civilians and personnel of Pakistani security forces but the group was weakened after the Pakistan military’s Zarb-e-Azb operation in 2014, reported Reuters.