Afghan Taliban want Pakistan to ‘bear cost’ of disarming TTP

Kabul also offers to relocate group from border areas


Kamran Yousaf February 24, 2023
Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is addressing the apex committee meeting in Islamabad. SCREEBGRAB

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ISLAMABAD:

The Afghan Taliban have expressed their willingness to disarm the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and relocate its members from the Pak-Afghan border but with a condition that Islamabad will bear the cost of the proposed plan.

This was revealed at the meeting of the Central Apex Committee, which met on Friday to discuss the recent surge in terrorist attacks in the country and other security matters.

The meeting was presided over by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif and attended by chief ministers of the four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan, the AJK PM, senior cabinet ministers, the army chief, DG ISI and other relevant officials.

Sources familiar with the meeting told The Express Tribune that the issue of banned TTP and its sanctuaries across the border was one of the main issues on the agenda.

A high-powered delegation led by Defence Minister Khawaja Asif visited Kabul this week to share "irrefutable evidence" with the Afghan Taliban about the presence of TTP in the neighbouring country.

The sources said the apex committee was informed that the Afghan interim government proposed a plan to control the banned outfit. The proposal envisages disarming the TTP fighters and their relocation from the Pak-Afghan border areas. However, the Afghan government asked Pakistan to fund the proposal and bear the cost of rehabilitation of the TTP.

The meeting was informed that the Afghan Taliban made a similar proposal to China to address its concerns on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

However, Pakistan has yet to respond to the Afghan Taliban’s idea as there is skepticism that it might not work.

Nevertheless, it was for the first time that the Afghan Taliban came up with the idea to disarm the TTP.

Earlier, the interim Afghan government encouraged Pakistan to negotiate a peace deal with the TTP, something that backfired.

There are between 8,000 to 12,000 TTP fighters in Afghanistan and the number goes to 30,000 if their family members are also included, according to some estimates.

Meanwhile, a statement issued by the PM Office said the meeting agreed that “the elimination of terrorism, economic recovery and political stability are interlinked”.

"Pakistan cannot afford internal instability. National unity, unity and collective struggle is the need of the hour. In order to achieve these goals, a national consensus should be created and obstacles should be removed," the statement read.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif lamented that despite efforts, PTI Chairman Imran Khan was not ready to sit and evolve a consensus on key national issues.

He said that Pakistan and the IMF were close to signing a deal but made it clear that the release of the next tranche would not end the country's economic woes.

He then referred to the provision of the much-needed loan from a friendly country without waiting for the IMF programme’s revival. Though he didn't name that country, it was China, which provided $700 million to cash-strapped Pakistan.

Meanwhile, in the apex committee meeting, the incidents of terrorism, especially the incidents of terrorism that took place at the Peshawar Police Lines mosque on Jan 30 and at the Karachi Police Office on Feb 19 and the subsequent situation, were reviewed in detail.

Representatives of sensitive institutions briefed the participants on the overall security situation and operations against terrorists.

The Sindh inspector general of police informed the meeting about the attack on Karachi Police Office and the facts that emerged so far.

"Saluting all the law enforcement agencies, including Pakistan Army, Rangers, FC, CTD and the police, for showing unprecedented courage and bravery against terrorism across the country, tributes were paid to the martyred officers and soldiers," the statement said.

The meeting deliberated on the issue of non-availability of funds sanctioned in the past for Karachi police and security and directed that obstacles in the way of completion of all projects related to police, CTD and security should be removed without delay.

The meeting considered the role of media, especially social media, during terrorist incidents and operations of security forces.

The meeting was briefed that during the operation of the security forces, the information is also broadcast on media from which the terrorists and their facilitators can take advantage and there can also be an impact on the security operation, thereby endangering the lives of the officers and men conducting the operation.

It was suggested to follow 'SOPs' and regulations on cyberspace and terrorism prevalent in other countries of the world.

In this context, in consultation with the media houses and all relevant stakeholders, appropriate procedures should be formulated so that in emergency situations, rumours, misleading information and creating fear among the public will not create problems for the security operatives.

The meeting also decided that a focal person should be assigned the responsibility to provide facts to the media and public in an emergency situation.

The meeting reviewed the progress on the implementation of the National Action Plan and the decisions made in the previous meeting.

The committee headed by the federal minister for law and justice informed about the progress on measures to make the stages of investigation, prosecution and punishment effective against terrorists.

The prime minister said the government has to unwillingly accept the strict conditions of a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to provide a lifeline for an economy in turmoil.

"We have to accept unwillingly the strict conditions of the IMF deal," he said, adding that an accord was still a "week, 10 days" away.

Pakistani authorities have been negotiating with the IMF since early February over policy framework issues and are hoping to sign a staff-level agreement that will pave the way for more inflows from other bilateral and multilateral lenders. Once the deal is signed, the lender will disburse a tranche of more than $1 billion from the $6.5 billion bailout agreed to in 2019.

Pakistan has already taken a string of measures, including adopting a market-based exchange rate; a hike in fuel and power tariffs; the withdrawal of subsidies, and more taxation to generate revenue to bridge the fiscal deficit.

The officials said the lender is still negotiating with Islamabad over the power sector debt, as well as a potential rise in the policy rate, which currently stands at 17%. The strict measures are likely to further cool the economy and stoke inflation, which stood at 27.50% in January.

(With additional input from Reuters)

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