The Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on Tuesday formally endorsed the efforts aimed at seeking a peace deal with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The development came after the military leadership told lawmakers that it was feared that the TTP might join hands with Da’ish Khorasan and Pakistan was compelled to seek a peace deal with the group involved in some of the deadliest terrorist attacks in the country, according to the closed door briefing.
In an in-camera briefing for the members of parliament and other political leaders, the country’s military leadership on Tuesday warned of devastating consequences for the country if the TTP joined hands with the Da’ish terrorist group.
Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, Director General Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt General Nadeem Anjum and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt General Faiz Hameed briefed the PCNS about the talks with the TTP.
The in-camera meeting was attended by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and all other key political leaders. Fazlur Rehman, who is otherwise not a member of parliament, was also in attendance. Former prime minister Imran Khan was not invited to the meeting.
A participant of the meeting told The Express Tribune that Peshawar Corps Commander General Faiz Hameed gave a detailed briefing about the progress and background of the ongoing talks with the TTP.
Gen Faiz is heading the Pakistani team that held a series of meetings with TTP chief Noor Wali Masood in Afghanistan. The army chief answered most of the questions from the members of parliament and other participants.
Interestingly, the DG ISI remained silent for most of the part and only responded to a few questions. In fact, some of the members could not even recognise the DG ISI since unlike his predecessor the current spymaster avoids publicity.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity one participant revealed that the civilian leadership told the meeting that the fear of the TTP joining Da’ish was the main reason behind initiating talks with the militant outfit.
According to the military leadership, if the TTP joins hands with Da’ish, that would be devastating for the security of Pakistan as the Indian intelligence agency would certainly exploit such a scenario.
The committee was informed that RAW (Research and Analysis Wing) was trying to regain foothold in Afghanistan and it was important for Pakistan to reach out to the reconcilable elements of the terrorist outfit.
Given the context of the ongoing talks, the meeting was told that it was Pakistan’s air strikes in April targeting the TTP hideouts in Afghanistan that pushed the Afghan Taliban to bring the TTP onto the negotiating table.
The air strikes were carried out after the TTP stepped up cross-border terrorist attacks leaving several Pakistani security personnel martyred.
But as a result of a series of meetings brokered by the Afghan Taliban, the TTP announced an indefinite ceasefire.
Nevertheless, the military leadership told the members of parliament that nothing was final yet and the negotiating team would act as per the guidelines of parliament and the government.
It emerged during the meeting that the TTP put forward a series of demands, including reversal of the FATA merger, withdrawal of all cases against their people and freedom to operate from the erstwhile tribal areas.
A statement issued by the PM Office said the Parliament’s Committee on National Security on Tuesday formally gave a go-ahead for continuing talks with the TTP.
A Parliamentary Oversight Committee will be formed to monitor the entire process. The meeting termed it a first step towards the “National Grand Reconciliation Dialogue”.
The official handout said the talks with the TTP were being held in accordance with the Constitution in order to ensure regional and internal peace and stability.
The meeting ruled that the final results would be implemented after completing the due process while strictly adhering to the Constitution and with the approval of the government.
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