Negotiator for Pakistani Taliban says extension to month-long ceasefire due to expire next week will be top priority.
Extending a Taliban ceasefire will be the top priority in the next round of talks between the militants and the government, a negotiator said Tuesday.
Islamabad opened negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) last month in a bid to end their bloody seven-year insurgency. Meetings so far have been conducted between go-betweens for the two sides, but they are now due to progress to “direct talks” in the coming days. The government last week formed a new four-member committee for the direct contact, and a venue has been agreed—though not disclosed publicly.
Sayed Yusuf Shah, a negotiator for Taliban, said on Tuesday that the next phase of talks would be held between the government committee and members of the Taliban political council. “The top priority is to extend the ceasefire because things cannot move further until there exists a peaceful atmosphere,” he said.
A one-month ceasefire announced by the TTP to help the talks proceed is due to expire next week. The Taliban have asked the government to release from jail 300 people, including women, children and men they say are non-combatants, as part of an ongoing peace process. The fact that negotiations have so far been conducted through intermediaries has led some observers to question their effectiveness.