Pakistan would continue its efforts to hold peace talks with the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) but only on the condition that the insurgents lay down their arms first, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said on Wednesday.
Speaking at a press conference, Rana said that the recent meeting of the National Security Committee this week had resolved that there would be zero tolerance for terrorism in Pakistan. He stressed that there was no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ terrorist.
“Efforts are being carried out and will be made to bring the TTP to the [negotiation] table,” the interior minister said. “But the primary condition [for talks with the TTP] is that they give up their arms and accept the [Pakistani] law and the Constitution,” he added.
At the NSC meeting earlier this week, it was decided that there would be zero tolerance for terrorism in Pakistan, Rana said. "There is no mixed message. There are no 'good' or 'bad' terrorists. Anyone involved in terrorism is a terrorist. There is no question of them being red, white, or black," he emphasised.
The interior minister spoke to the media a day after Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told reporters in Dadu the coalition government would quit “the policy of appeasement of terrorists” pursued by the previous Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government.
The interior minister's comments come as Pakistan faced an uptick in terrorist attacks. Rana Sana said that in 2022, 67% of terrorism incidents took place in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 31% in Balochistan, and the rest in Punjab and elsewhere.
The minister announced that training and support would be given to the counter-terrorism departments (CTDs) in all provinces, especially Balochistan and K-P. Besides, he added, a coordinated structure of the CTD would be put in place at the federal level.
Pakistan had pursued direct talks with the TTP after the Afghan Taliban returned to power in Kabul in August 2021. Talks did produce some results initially when the TTP announced a ceasefire in November that year and then agreed to an indefinite truce in June last year.
In return for truce, Pakistani authorities allowed a number of TTP members to return as part of a confidence-building measure. However, the returning militants later regrouped and started targeting security forces. On November 28, just a day before the change of command at the GHQ, the TTP ended the ceasefire.
Rana Sana believed that the TTP had some 7,000 and 10,000 foot soldiers. He had warned in a TV interview last week that Pakistani forces could target the TTP sanctuaries in Afghanistan’s border regions, if Kabul did not listen to requests for action against them.
Since the Afghan Taliban takeover, over 420 terrorist attacks have been recorded. In the last three months alone, the TTP claimed responsibility for 141 attacks. The attacks were even carried out despite the ceasefire announcement in June. Officials say that the TTP had used the ceasefire and peace talks to regroup.
(WITH INPUT FROM NEWS DESK)
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