Peace overtures: Taliban hint at ‘temporary ceasefire’

Published: February 17, 2014

The Taliban official said central leaders will take a final decision on the ceasefire and it could take two or three days as establishing “contact with them are not easy”. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Sunday hinted at declaring a ‘temporary ceasefire’ to give the government time to accept their three initial demands. In the meantime media reports claimed that the Taliban were likely to announce a truce in the next 24 hours.

Earlier in the day, it was reported that the Taliban Political Shura held a meeting to discuss the issues the government had highlighted in its letter, which emphasised a ceasefire to make the environment conducive for talks.

“The Taliban are likely to respond to us later in the night or Monday morning,” government negotiating committee member Rustam Shah Mohmand told The Express Tribune on Sunday. “The Taliban holding a meeting reflects that they are taking the government’s offer for talks seriously. They used to ignore such overtures in the past,” he explained.

However, a TTP official, who is regularly briefed by the leadership over the Political Shura’s discussions, did not give any specific timeframe for the announcement. He did not confirm reports of an announcement in the next 24 hours either.

“I will not go into any specific deadline. However, we are involved in serious consultations regarding a ceasefire. The Taliban Political Shura has been discussing the option since last week’s visit by our intermediaries,” he told The Express Tribune.

The Taliban Shura had put three initial conditions: the release of all non-combatant prisoners; withdrawal of troops from South Waziristan to provide a secure place to the Taliban for future peace talks; and an end to arrests and ‘extra-judicial killings’ of Taliban detainees.

He did not confirm if the Political Shura met on Sunday, but he added that the Taliban usually do not hold any meeting on Sundays due to the curfew in Waziristan. However, according to local officials, the local administration did not impose a curfew that day.

The Taliban official said central leaders will take a final decision on the ceasefire and it could take two or three days as establishing “contact with them are not easy”. “Whenever we take a ceasefire decision, we will convey it to our people in Karachi, Peshawar and other areas,” he went on to say.

Trust deficit

Even though the chances of a ceasefire seem likely, Rustam Shah maintained that trust between the government and the Taliban has to be resurrected.

He referred to the agreements between the government and the Taliban in 2004, 2006 and 2008, saying that both sides blame each other for the violation of previous peace accords. Trust between the two sides had disappeared, he added.

“In order to rebuild trust, the Taliban side has to stop their activities first and then we can sit together and discuss issues and their resolution,” Shah emphasised. “Some issues might be resolved earlier while some might take time, but it can all only happen once both the parties sit at the table for talks.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 17th, 2014.

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