Pakistan on Friday welcomed the ceasefire announced by the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), as the federal government for the first time publicly acknowledged it was negotiating a peace deal with the outlawed outfit.
The confirmation from the government came a day after the TTP extended the ceasefire for an indefinite period after the Pakistani tribal jirga visited Kabul and held talks with the TTP leadership.
Both sides have been holding talks for the last several weeks but the Pakistani side until now remained tight-lipped.
Questions were asked about whether the current government was on board with talks with the TTP as military officials held a series of meetings with the militant outfit in recent days in the Afghan capital.
Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb on Friday in a statement said the talks with the TTP were taking place at the government level.
“Talks with the TTP began in 2021 and these negotiations have been taking place at the government level,” the minister said in a statement confirming the peace talks with the banned group.
Also read: TTP declares indefinite ceasefire as peace talks 'progress'
The minister also confirmed that the Afghan Taliban government was acting as a mediator between the two sides. She said civil and military representatives were part of the Pakistani side holding talks with the TTP.
She said the government welcomed the ceasefire announced by the TTP.
The truce was to expire on May 30 but the TTP extended it now for an indefinite period as both sides were trying to reach a peace deal.
In return for the ceasefire, Pakistan reportedly released certain TTP prisoners and even pardoned some who were convicted in terror cases. There was, however, no official confirmation.
The TTP has put forward several demands including reversal of Fata merger, monetary compensation and allowing them to keep their arms. The Pakistani side, however, wants them to lay down their arms and is also reluctant to restore the status of FATA. There were questions asked about whether the Pakistani team holding talks with the TTP had the mandate to discuss matters that involve constitutional amendments.
The information minister clarified that the negotiation committee had the mandate. “Whatever decision the team will arrive at would be approved by the government and parliament.”
The peace process resumed last month after Pakistan sent a clear message to the Afghan Taliban government that it would no more tolerate cross-border terrorist attacks. Over 120 Pakistani security forces were martyred this year in terrorist attacks mostly carried out by the TTP from across the border.
Also read: Pakistan, TTP agree to indefinite ceasefire as talks continue
In April, frequent cross-border terrorist attacks compelled Pakistan to launch retaliatory air strikes targeting the TTP hideouts across the border. It also warned the Afghan Taliban to take stern action against the TTP, which was operating with impunity from the Afghan soil.
The Afghan Taliban, feeling pressure from Pakistan once again persuaded the TTP to engage with Pakistan. A few weeks ago a Pakistani delegation led by Peshawar Corps Commander Lt General Faiz Hameed visited Kabul and held talks with the TTP. The talks led to the renewal of the truce by the TTP for May 30 which has now been extended indefinitely.
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