Pakistan’s information minister says negotiations with extremists initiated on request of Afghanistan government
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led government on Tuesday announced that it will “analyze” the impact of a ceasefire with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) before deciding how to proceed with negotiations to establish peace in the country.
“[The] TTP is not an organization,” Information Minister Chaudhry Fawad Hussain told a post-cabinet press briefing in Islamabad. “It has several groups … and talks with them would succeed only after they accept the Constitution,” he said, adding that a “chance” would be given to those factions that were ready to honor Pakistan’s laws. Hardcore militants, who have been involved in the killing of innocent people, he warned, would be dealt with an iron hand.
“All the groups who we are talking to have to respect Pakistan’s Constitution and its legal framework,” he said of the ceasefire announced by the TTP, adding that as far as the nature of talks was concerned, “we are very clear about that as well.” He said wars could not be sustained “indefinitely” and the government hoped to secure peace through its negotiations with the militant group.
The information warned that economic conditions in Afghanistan were rapidly deteriorating, and referred to news reports that parents were being forced to sell their children for wheat and grain. “We are asking the international community to help the people in Afghanistan,” he said, adding that Islamabad had yet to recognize the new Afghan government because it wanted an inclusive government there with representation of all ethnicities.
He said the federal cabinet had approved the establishment of a special fund to which Pakistanis could donate to support the Afghan people during these turbulent times. He said Pakistan was also planning to convene a conference of foreign ministers of the Organization for Islamic Cooperation next month to discuss ways to extend maximum support to Afghanistan at this critical juncture.
“Afghanistan is on the brink of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and the United Nations had on Oct. 25 warned that it might even exceed the miseries in Syria and Yemen,” he warned, adding that the cabinet had also decided to donate wheat and rice to Kabul to help prevent disaster. Reiterating calls for the U.S. to unfreeze Afghanistan’s accounts, he said that without aid and those funds, the country could not function as a normal state.
Referring to the opposition—which has launched nationwide protests against inflation and threatened a long march on Islamabad—the minister said they would have to “wait for a year or two”—when general elections are due in 2023—and then wait “for another five years,” suggesting that the PTI would win the next elections as well.
“You cannot achieve everything that you want through conspiracies … I would first suggest the Opposition stands on its feet and stop hatching conspiracies,” he said, adding that the inflationary pressures currently facing Pakistan would reduce “in the next few months.”
Odds and ends
The information minister said the cabinet had decided to increase gas tariffs for captive power plants in light of a global hike on oil and gas prices. He said the new prices would come into effect on Nov. 15 and remain intact till March 31. “To avoid misuse of the scheme, the government had decided to take the subsidy back from the industrial sector till March 31, 2022 as the gas crisis was likely to ease after March,” he claimed, adding that this would not be applicable on domestic consumers.
According to Fawad, the cabinet approved ceiling fans in the mandatory list of recommendations of the Pakistan Quality Control Authority, claiming this would improve standards of local fans that would make them energy efficient and allow for their export.
The federal cabinet also consented to leasing Pakistan Tourism Development Corporation properties in Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan-administered Kashmir to the private sector to promote domestic tourism, he said, adding that this would eventually be extended to Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.