DI KHAN: It appears the Taliban want to exploit the government’s quest for peace as they seek maximum concessions ahead of any peace negotiations.
The outlawed Tehreek-eTaliban Pakistan (TTP) – which claimed responsibility for Sunday’s rare high-ranking military casualties – said that it would not negotiate with the government unless two preconditions were met.
“First, army troops should pull out from the entire tribal area. And second, our prisoners should be released,” TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told reporters by phone from an undisclosed location.
“We cannot move forward unless the government accepts these two demands… it must take steps which can develop an atmosphere of trust and can remove the doubts and suspicion,” Shahid said. “We are not going to waste precious time over useless negotiations, like those held in the past.”
According to Shahid, the two preconditions were agreed upon in a recent meeting of the TTP’s Central Shura, or decision-making council, in North Waziristan Agency. The Shura discussed for three days the government’s offer of peace talks.
It is unclear the Pakistan Army would accept such demands, especially after Sunday’s killing of its senior officers.
“The events of last 24 hours clearly suggest that the TTP is not serious for peace talks,” said a security official, who wished to remain anonymous because of the sensitivity ofthe issue. He said the army was accessing the situation and would give its input to the government in view of the surge in militant attacks.
The TTP spokesman said the government has not contacted the group thus far to prepare the ground for possible talks.
About the exchange of prisoners and list of detainees, Shahid said the moves could have been undertaken by a splinter group, but were never sanctioned by the TTP’s central leadership.
Politicians last week backed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s calls to begin talks with homegrown militants. Representatives from the main coalition and opposition parties, who attended the all parties conference, asked the government to initiate the dialogue.
Previous peace deals with the Taliban had quickly broken down and been sharply criticised for allowing militants time to regroup before fresh attacks.
(WITH ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM AFP)