In statement, information minister says Afghan Taliban have facilitated the talks between the government and extremists
Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain on Monday announced that the government had achieved a ceasefire agreement with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), adding that the Afghan Taliban had helped mediate negotiations.
“The government-TTP talks will be in accordance with the laws and Constitution of Pakistan,” he said in a video statement, adding that no government could hold any talks that violated the law. He said that a month-long ceasefire had been agreed, adding that this could be extended in line with progress during talks. He stressed that the state’s sovereignty and national security would be maintained, adding that residents of areas with high incidence of TTP presence would be taken into confidence during the ongoing peace talks.
“The affected individuals of these areas cannot be disregarded,” he said. “It is gratifying that these areas of Pakistan are moving towards absolute peace after a long time,” he added.
The information minister said that the interim Afghanistan government, led by the Taliban, had facilitated the negotiations, adding that they had played a role in bringing the TTP to the negotiating table.
Reports of the government initiating talks with the banned extremist group have been circulating since Prime Minister Imran Khan told a Turkish broadcaster that the PTI-led government was seeking reconciliation with “some” TTP groups. “There are different groups which form the TTP and some of them want to talk to our government for peace. So, we are in talks with them. It’s a reconciliation process,” he had said. At the time, the TTP had issued a statement denying this and urged its fighters to continue targeting Pakistan’s security forces.
On Monday, however, the TTP issued a statement confirming that it had reached a ceasefire agreement with the government. “[Both] sides will observe a month-long ceasefire from Nov. 9 until Dec. 9,” read the statement issued by spokesman Muhammad Khurasani. “The ceasefire will be extended with the consensus of the two sides,” he said. “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is playing the role of a mediator in the negotiations,” he added.
According to the TTP statement, both sides have agreed to form negotiation teams to take the process forward. It said that the group was ready to work toward durable peace in Pakistan.
While neither the government, nor the TTP, have confirmed any details of their ceasefire agreement, sources aware of the talks have claimed that authorities have pledged to release more than a 100 detained militants.
Pakistan’s two major opposition parties—the PPP and PMLN—have both condemned the “secret” agreement and demanded the government place it before Parliament for debate. “No policy can be made [on] these issues without the approval of Parliament,” PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari told media after a security briefing. “Any policies made without the approval of Parliament will lack legitimacy and will not be successful,” he said, adding that neither the president nor the premier had the right to “beg” to the group responsible for the deaths of Pakistan Army soldiers and the students of Peshawar’s Army Public School.
Separately, PMLN Secretary General Ahsan Iqbal also told local media that the deal agreed with the TTP must be placed before Parliament, stressing that opposition parties had no knowledge of it. Referring to the security briefing, he said lawmakers had only been informed that talks had been initiated; not that an agreement had already been inked.