Pakistan government in exploratory talks with TTP: Taliban commander

Published: November 21, 2011

Talks are focused on the South Waziristan region and could be expanded to try to reach a comprehensive deal. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a major security threat to the country, is holding exploratory peace talks with the Pakistani government, a senior Taliban commander and tribal mediators told Reuters on Monday.

The talks are focused on the South Waziristan region and could be expanded to try to reach a comprehensive deal. The Taliban are making several demands including the release of fighters from prisons, said the commander.

A tribal mediator described the talks as “very difficult”.

The United States, the source of billions of dollars of aid vital for Pakistan’s military and feeble economy, may not look kindly on peace talks with the TTP, which it has labelled a terrorist group.

Past peace pacts with the TTP have backfired and merely gave the umbrella group time and space to consolidate, launch fresh attacks and impose their austere version of Islam on segments of the population.

“Yes, we have been holding talks but this is just an initial phase. We will see if there is a breakthrough,” said the senior Taliban commander, who asked not to be identified.

“Right now, this is at the South Waziristan level. If successful, we can talk about a deal for all the tribal areas.”

“We never wanted to fight to begin with,” said the senior Taliban commander. “Our aim was to rid Afghanistan of foreign forces. But the Pakistani government, by supporting America, left us no choice but to fight.”

Last month, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said that his administration is ready to start talks with all factions of the Taliban, including the Haqqani network.

“If negotiations fail to work, the government will launch military operations in the tribal areas,” he told a small group of journalists at his private residence in Lahore.

The prime minister did not specifically refer to North Waziristan – the tribal region where the Haqqanis are believed to be based – when talking about military campaigns.

He said that the approach currently being tried was similar to that which was tried in Swat, where the government offered a peace deal to the militants in 2009, but launched a military operation after the Taliban refused to honour their end of the bargain.

For the first time, the prime minister provided details about how the talks would be conducted. “We will not ask them to disarm before the negotiations since this is against the tribal culture. However, the political agents [government administrators in the tribal regions] will ask them to decommission themselves,” he said.

The TTP, a banned conglomerate of militant groups blamed for most violent acts in the country, welcomed the government’s offer for peace talks with all insurgent groups.

“The TTP welcomes the prime minister’s offer,” Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, TTP’s deputy commander and commander-in-chief in Bajaur Agency, told The Express Tribune by phone from an undisclosed location. But he set two preconditions for dialogue: The government should reconsider its relationship with the United States and enforce Islamic sharia in the country.

Maulvi Faqir and other senior TTP cadres are believed to be hiding in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. Islamabad has blamed militants led by Maulvi Faqir for the recent cross-border attacks on its security forces.

“The US won’t be happy,” said Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Pakistani expert on the Taliban. “If there is less pressure from Pakistan on the militants then they (the Pakistani Taliban) will turn their attention to Afghanistan.”

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Reader Comments (39)

  • SalSal
    Nov 21, 2011 - 10:43AM

    Why isnt America doing anything against these terrorists in Afghanistan? Then they blame us of playing double game. What else do they expect from a weak Pakistan if they r going to push it against the wall like this?

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  • wasim younis
    Nov 21, 2011 - 11:13AM

    i really don’t know if its a good move. Our prime focus should be to eliminate Taliban’s from this region. But if this move is helping in any way then we should go forward with it.

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  • faraz
    Nov 21, 2011 - 11:36AM

    Taliban must accept the writ of the state. Unlike previous peace deals, we shouldnt just hand over the entire FATA to TTP.

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  • Iftikhar-ur-Rehman
    Nov 21, 2011 - 11:44AM

    @wasim younis:
    Agree with you, these BEASTS should be eliminated!!!

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  • karrar ali
    Nov 21, 2011 - 12:09PM

    another fake story by tribune on militancy. i can prove the supposed statement of molvi faqir is fake. earlier a reporter of tribune had claimed he sent questions in written to the ttp deputy chief and recieved the answers on the same issue but the deputy chief of ttp, wali u rehman mehsud denied the story in person.
    will the pakistani journalists stop to act like militants and journalists at the same time???/

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  • Asif
    Nov 21, 2011 - 12:29PM

    LOL @Faraz

    Has it not occurred to you that some state within a state has objectives that surpass this rift within. The talks are a prelude to unity against US objectives in Afghanistan. These talks most likely are to strengthen the position from which the US exit is negotiated. With this group not acting against Pakistan, and only focusing on Afghanistan, it is no longer an issue for the state within a state.

    Get with reality

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  • Muhammad Ahsan Khan
    Nov 21, 2011 - 12:35PM

    When two armies are fighting, the peace negociations only take place if one of the two has lost the war. The winning side dictates the terms.

    So, who is the winner: Pak Army or TTP army??

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  • Convince me
    Nov 21, 2011 - 1:50PM

    I think the government should go ahead and start talks with the Taliban. This is the time, they have received the blow, they have bowed down, its the ideal time to talk, dictate, and bring back peace…

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  • R S JOHAR
    Nov 21, 2011 - 1:51PM

    GOP should have been holding talks with TTP on the position of strength but I am afraid its not the case. The main hurdle which might break the talks would be enforcement of sharia in Pakistan. TTP is regrouping with Afghan Taleban and other outfits to fight the military and their main objective is to rule the country, which is the bottom line.

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  • Acorn Guts
    Nov 21, 2011 - 1:59PM

    No you cannot burn the bookstores, flog the clean shaven and shut down girls school.

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  • Parvez
    Nov 21, 2011 - 2:15PM

    Talks is another name for regrouping, getting strength for another round of fighting – who are we or they fooling ?

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  • j. von hettlingen
    Nov 21, 2011 - 2:31PM

    When will the TTP release the Swiss couple they kidnapped in July? Are the two still alive? A month ago the Swiss TV-channels showed a video dated back to August, in which the hostages pleaded for their release. Mr. Saifullah Mahsud, director of the FATA Research in Islamabad was interviewed by a Swiss journalist. I had doubts and wrote to Mr. Mahsud. He wrote back and regretted that he had been misquoted and that he had never been in contact with the TTP. The new demand – a $3 million ransom and the release of 100 prisoners by the Pakistani authorities – was just a rumour. Indeed it had never been officially confirmed by the TTP. They were pressing for the release of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving a 80 year sentence in a Texan jail in exchange for the two Swiss. The Shura of the TTP should release evidence that the two hostages are still alive!

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  • Kafka
    Nov 21, 2011 - 3:17PM

    Talks with taliban should not be the repeat of Swat, when taliban were allowed to establish a state within state. Taliban should be asked to disarm and respect the law of the land instead of implementing their own laws. Otherwise, it would like walking in circles with insecurity always looming large.

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  • Roflcopter
    Nov 21, 2011 - 3:54PM

    “The United States, the source of billions of dollars of aid vital for Pakistan’s military and feeble economy”

    Sick of hearing this nonsense.

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  • MarkH
    Nov 21, 2011 - 4:24PM

    @Asif:
    I seriously laughed the moment I saw “get with reality.” I read your comment a couple times over thinking there must be a sarcastic joke in there somewhere but could barely manage it even if I tried to force it.
    Everything you said is far from reality itself. Usually I’d say why in a large ramble. But, it’s too big of a job. Everything you said was so far from reality it’s tragically funny. Literally. Everything
    Also, another deterrent for saying why is the fact I can’t even understand how you managed to come to those conclusions. It’s off the charts in ridiculousness. Coming to those conclusions with such confidence should require some kind of talent for dysfunction.

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  • asma@london
    Nov 21, 2011 - 4:49PM

    They have been killing innocent people of Pakistan and the excuse is that Pakistan is an ally of America. Does that justify the killing of innocent citizens of our country and destroying girls schools, kidnapping small boys who accidently crossed to the other side. Have they not read the way our Prophet (PBUH) behaved in war and peace and the rules he has laid down for eveything? They are LIARS and double crossers, their lust is power and money! Nothing else.

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  • Nadir
    Nov 21, 2011 - 5:18PM

    “the Pakist­ani govt left us no choice but to fight: ” Blowing up schools, shrines, mosques, kidnapping children, pumping them with adrenalin and sending them of of suicide attacks is what you call a “choice to fight”. Cowards

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  • Ghaznavi
    Nov 21, 2011 - 5:24PM

    There is only political solution to all this madness. TTP needs to be neutralized through engagement, talks and force when required. We need to reconcile with our people who are willing to be reconciled.

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  • Lobster
    Nov 21, 2011 - 5:27PM

    Both US and Pakistan have failed. Accept that! other they wouldn’t have started negotiation. I agree we should talk and isolate those which continue to rage war against people of Pakistan (and then eliminate them!)

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  • Hassan
    Nov 21, 2011 - 5:46PM

    @ asma london

    what proof do u have that the TTP is involved in all the mayhem and chaos that you have mentioned abt despite knowing that the dark role Blackwater Inc and Raymond network has been playing in Pakistan in the name of war on terror.

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  • Hu Jintao
    Nov 21, 2011 - 6:01PM

    there should be no talks with TTP. Afghan talibans are different though

    TTP is terrorist organization funded and supported by enemies of Pakistan.

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  • Pragmatist
    Nov 21, 2011 - 6:14PM

    @SalSal:
    It is very hard when a state supports militants in an asymmetric war. No matter how powerful one side is, it can be picked off by hit-and-run foot soldiers who will then melt into the civilian population. The only way to stop them is by cutting off their money and ammo.

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  • Awais S.
    Nov 21, 2011 - 6:59PM

    I think its not unreasonable to go with a peace negotiation. Afterall US is doing the same in Afghanistan. Plus, with all the blame game from US, ISAF is also doing nothing to stop cross border attacks from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

    For all those who still chant the same slogan for eliminations of the beasts entirely and “leave none of them”, feel free to join police, paramilitary or military to do it yourself. Pakistan has been trying with aggressive tactics for 10 years now. No use! Give peace a chance!

    We, the moderates, preach all the time to Taliban to learn to live to “our” terms. Have we ever tried to help them blend in? Couldn’t we be actually moderates, to be able to show how we can coexist? Our political parties turn into extreme violence just because others are not agreeing to what they want. Is this the ideal of moderation we are presenting for extremists to leave extremism? Just having a turban and a grown beared is the difference. Otherwise whether its political parties, TTP, intelligence agencies, all are killing people unjustly!

    Give and take is going to be the ultimate solution if we want to live in peace in our region. Till then, good luck!

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  • SYED
    Nov 21, 2011 - 7:11PM

    Islam is areligion of peace. Give peace a chance.Remember the action of our beloved Prophet (PBUH). with Qureish at Hudiba. He preferred peace to war,even with his worst enemies. Also remember what he said about having alliances with non-muslims. So what, if the TPP wants to implement Sharriat in their own areas. Why are Pakistani muslims afraid of Sharriat laws. If you are against Sharriat, then don’t claim to be muslims. There is a lot of incessant propaganda against the tenets of Islam, more from the so called muslims than Christians, Jews and Hindus.

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  • bangash
    Nov 21, 2011 - 7:17PM

    The TTP target is Pakistan, that is why they have seized Pakistani territory and murdered every time of Pakistani. These beasts should be eliminated.

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  • Aceleaf
    Nov 21, 2011 - 7:39PM

    The flawed concept of strategic depth backfires. Negotiation with taliban beasts means creating state within state.

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  • Maryam
    Nov 21, 2011 - 7:43PM

    Love this demand of Taliban “The government should reconsider its relationship with the United States and enforce Islamic sharia in the country.” and Imran Khan is happy to say OK to these two demands. Welcome to the Sharia State as defined by Taliban.

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  • Muhammad Ahsan Khan
    Nov 21, 2011 - 8:29PM

    “Negotiation with taliban beasts means creating state within state”

    The “state within state” already exists in the State of Pakistan. This is “Pak Army State” which is above and beyond the Nation. In Pakistan the Army controls the nation and not otherwise.

    Why not another State based on Sharia and Imran KHAN as Ameer-ul-Momeneen where this new State will control the nation and the Army??

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  • Nov 21, 2011 - 8:31PM

    @SYED:

    And if you remember about the first extremists, the Kharjites, they were hunted down for their dissent and discord. And as the Quraysh broke the peace deal, which lead to consequences, you should recall Swat, we’ve already gone though the peace negotiations charade, which were broken by the extremists.

    Sharia isn’t so much a problem, if most Muslims who hypocritically and ignorantly demand it actually understood it, instead of confusing it with extremism, and exploiting it for their narrow minded interpretation and abusive power trips by employing fascist religious police.

    Yes, that’s the version of ideological distorted, extremist and twisted TTP ‘Shariat’ you’re talking about and advocating, which bans girls’ education by blowing up their schools, more interested of executing accused adulterers without witnesses and blowing up other Muslim sects and their places of worship.

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  • Nov 21, 2011 - 8:37PM

    @Hassan:

    what proof do u have that the TTP is involved in all the mayhem and chaos that you have mentioned abt despite knowing that the dark role Blackwater Inc and Raymond network has been playing in Pakistan in the name of war on terror.

    Spare us the lunacy and delusions and hypocrisy of asking proof.

    Apparently one US incident trumps the 1000′s of other evidenced backed militant activities, and known dark role of Pakistani militant-mullah nexus of infinite number of banned and not banned militant groups that has existed in Pakistan, and it’s neighbours in Afghanistan and Kashmir and India, even pre-9/11 as being a Blackwater conspiracy!

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  • Nov 21, 2011 - 8:52PM

    @Hu Jintao:

    Afghan talibans are different though
    TTP is terrorist organization funded and supported by enemies of Pakistan.

    This is why no one has sympathy for Pakistan because of the hypocrisy of supporting one set of militants and terrorists for their own ideological/regional interests.

    The Afghan people don’t want the Afghan Taliban, (where 50% or more aren’t even Pashtun, yet we keep insisting they are!) because they don’t consider the Afghan Taliban their brothers, but their murderers. In this case, with so much proof, they wouldn’t be wrong to say the enemies of Afghanistan have safe haven in Pakistan.

    While you think they should have a pass, you ironically complain about the TTP, with the conspiracy prejudiced xenophobic hidden enemies theory to boot, offering no evidence or proof, while the contrary facts are abundantly obvious…they are your very own radicalized citizens who’ve decided to take matters into their own hands…just like the Afghan Taliban!

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  • R S JOHAR
    Nov 21, 2011 - 9:37PM

    @asma@london:
    Most appropriate comments both on violent means employed by this outfit killing innocent people and religious grounds mentioned by you.

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  • Asif
    Nov 22, 2011 - 3:24AM

    @MarkH

    You laughed because you dont want to believe it. Shuja is behind getting these peace talks and turning full attention to Afghanistan.

    There is no other reason. Comprende?

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  • American Desi
    Nov 22, 2011 - 5:53AM

    Time tested as Pakistan has done this before. Only thing is who is trying to buy time from whome?! Logic may not be considered halal.

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  • Ali
    Nov 22, 2011 - 6:09AM

    @Awais S.:
    But we must not forget the STATE as we cannot allow them to make another state into state. which happened when in Swat they were given liberty,they slaughtered our army soldiers as they were given control.So peace talks can-be by dropping weapons and accepting the Rit of the government.

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  • MM
    Nov 22, 2011 - 8:35AM

    @wasim younis:
    Have you ever heard of Divide & Rule. This is what Americans are trying to do. Pakistan need to have peace talk with Talibans at this point in time.

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  • Nazia
    Nov 22, 2011 - 11:46AM

    US and ISAF has contacts with the Talibans in Afghanistan for peace talk. Pakistan has started peace talk with Talibans then why others have problem with that? If Pakistan starts peace talk with Talibans, why US is unhappy with that as they are not taking any action against Talibans in Afghanistan.

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  • Nazia
    Nov 22, 2011 - 12:18PM

    US and ISAF are contacts with Talibans in Afghanistan for peace talk, then why they have problem as Pakistan starts peace talk with Talibans. Although they are not taking action against Talibans in Afghanistan and are in contacts with millitant groups in Afghanistan they should not have any problem if Pakistan is going to start peace talk with Talibans.

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  • Falcon
    Nov 23, 2011 - 1:44AM

    @Maryam: So obvious. There is hardly a comment anywhere where you let go of a chance to bash IK.

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