Taliban-brokered TTP talks end in deadlock

Militant group refuses to budge from its demand for reversal of FATA merger

Kamran Yousuf August 01, 2022
The Ulema delegation will hold meetings with TTP representatives and with the Afghan Taliban govt officials in order to take the peace process forward. Photo: Express


The talks between Pakistan and the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have reached a deadlock as the militant group refused to budge from its demand for the reversal of the merger of erstwhile Fata with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

There has also been a stalemate over the issue of TTP laying down their arms in case of a peace deal, which would enable them to return to their homeland.

Sources familiar with the development revealed that there had been a series of meetings between the two sides in recent weeks to break the impasse yet there had been no breakthrough so far.

In a latest push to take the process forwards, Pakistan sent a second delegation in a week to break the stalemate. Following the visit of a delegation of Ulema led by Mufti Taqi Usmani, a tribal jirga arrived in Kabul on Saturday.

The purpose of the Ulema delegation's visit was to use the good offices of the religious clerics to persuade the TTP to withdraw their demand for Fata merger and other contentious issues.

However, the TTP leadership did not give any firm assurance as the Ulema also pressed them to lay down their arms and return to Pakistan.

Usmani termed his visit positive but did not mention his interaction with the TTP.

“There is a deadlock. And the prospects of a peace deal are not bright,” a source connected to the peace efforts said.

Pakistan began talks with the TTP in October last year at the request of the Afghan Taliban to seek a political solution to the issue.

The initial contacts led to a one-month ceasefire between the two sides in November but the truce could not last long as differences emerged soon.

The TTP sought the release of prisoners including some hardcore members who were involved in terrorist attacks. Pakistan did release certain TTP members but the process could not move forward.

The breakdown in talks led to a spike in cross-border terrorist attacks by the TTP. In April, two dozen Pakistani security forces were martyred in a series of cross-border attacks. Some of the attacks filmed by the TTP showed the terrorists using sophisticated weapons.

The increase in attacks prompted Pakistan to launch air strikes across the border targeting the TTP’s hideouts. Islamabad also in a rare move issued a stern warning to the Afghan Taliban not to allow the Afghan soil to be used against the neighbouring country.

The warning coupled with air strikes compelled the Afghan Taliban to bring the TTP once again to the negotiating table. The renewed talks brokered the ceasefire and both sides agreed to take the process forward.

At a closed door briefing for the members of parliament, the military leadership said the fear of TTP fighters joining Da’esh was the primary reason Pakistan was seeking a peace deal with the TTP.

Islamabad fears that if the TTP or its splinter groups join Da’esh, it would multiply Pakistan’s security challenges. Pakistan is also concerned that this scenario will be exploited by external players including India.

Pakistan was hoping that peace deal with the TTP or its certain breakaway factions would weaken the terrorist network.

Also Pakistan gave peace a chance as the Afghan Taliban were not willing to take any action against the TTP. “We want to exhaust all options [before using force],” another source said. “That will be a last resort.”

According to Pakistani authorities’ assessment, the talks were not progressing well and Pakistan was ready for any eventuality.

The sticking point remained the Fata reforms which the TTP vehemently opposed. Pakistani interlocutors have told the TTP in clear terms that the Fata merger with K-P was the result of bipartisan consensus and it was done through the constitutional amendment.

The military, which is spearheading the talks with TTP, assured parliament that any peace deal with the terrorist outfit would be strictly in conformity with the Constitution.

The government has constituted a parliamentary oversight committee to ensure that no unconstitutional or illegal demand of the TTP is accepted.


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