Afghan Taliban supreme commander Mullah Muhammad Omar is pushing Pakistani militants based in the tribal areas to strike a peace deal with the government and has advised the chief of the Haqqani network to mediate between them.
“We have received a message from Ameerul-Momineen that there should be an end to our activities inside Pakistan …he wants us to make peace with the government and focus on Afghanistan against infidels,” a Taliban associate said.
This was confirmed to The Express Tribune over the past week by at least two other members of the terror group based in South Waziristan, as well as a couple of tribal elders privy to the ongoing talks between the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the government.
However, none of them wanted to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.
Meeting between Afghan, Pakistani militants
It was not clear when and how the elusive leader of the Afghan Taliban had sent his message.
At least two Taliban affiliates, one in Miramshah, North Waziristan and the other in Wana, South Waziristan, said that communication between representatives of Mullah Omar and Pakistani militants took place in an Arab country this Ramazan.
But a tribal elder, who claimed to be in the know of the ongoing talks, said that the son of a slain Afghan militant leader came to Waziristan as Mullah Omar’s representative.
The young messenger, he added, travelled from Kandahar to South Waziristan, the stronghold of the TTP, immediately after Ramazan and held meetings with members of a powerful shura that takes policy decisions for Pakistani militant groups.
Both the tribal leader and militant group’s insiders were, however, not sure if the representative of the Afghan Taliban fugitive head also met TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who has been in hiding for almost a year now.
In the neighbouring North Waziristan agency, Mullah Omar’s message for peace with Pakistan and its security forces has also been making rounds for some time now.
The network’s associates from Mirali town said that the group’s chief, Sirajuddin Haqqani, had been advised by Mullah Omar, whom he called his spiritual leader, to use his influence over the TTP to help broker the peace deal.
Military, intelligence deny reports of talks
It emerged over the last weekend that Pakistan security forces and the homegrown Taliban were holding talks to end an almost a decade old conflict in the country’s tribal areas.
Follow-up reports this week suggested that both sides had already covered ‘significant ground’ and were close to an agreement.
However, the Pakistani military immediately issued a strong denial, with the Taliban also rejecting the claim, although they earlier said that a truce was in place to pave way for talks.
In September, Pakistan’s top political and military leadership expressed desire to open peace talks with its ‘own people’ operating from the country’s tribal areas.
Since almost half a year now, Pakistani cities have been relatively calm and life is slowly returning to normalcy after years of violent attacks by the homegrown Taliban.
Experts like journalist Fida Khan, who has been covering militancy for a Japanese publication for more than a decade now, believes that this calm itself is an indication of something significant happening away from the media limelight.
“But all this will remain fragile for sometime unless something concrete happens and a slight mistake can blow things into a bigger conflict,” Khan feared.
‘Move by the Taliban to voluntarily end war will be welcomed’.
Meanwhile, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Friday that Pakistan will not initiate a dialogue with the local Taliban unless they lay down their arms and give up terrorism.
A move by the Taliban to voluntarily end war will be welcomed, Malik said at a press briefing along with UK Home Secretary Theresa May.
ADDITIONAL INPUT FROM APP
Published in The Express Tribune, November 26th, 2011.