Talks with Taliban: Govt edges closer to framing TTP strategy

Information minister says initiative is about to reach ‘conclusive stage’.

Zahid Gishkori December 01, 2013
Experts said the government’s efforts could only be fruitful if it succeeded in getting Washington’s consent to halt drone strikes in the tribal areas. PHOTO: AFP/FILE


A week after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said his government is still committed to the revival of proposed talks with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a federal minister on Sunday dropped a hint that the homework to resume dialogue with militants has been completed.

“Yes, we’re [almost] at the conclusive stage to resume talks with the TTP,” said Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid. “The government has always had a firm belief in reopening peace talks [with the Taliban],” he told The Express Tribune.

Earlier on Sunday, the minister told journalists in Swabi that the government would remove any hurdles existing before talks with the Taliban and would press ahead with the initiative without causing any loss to the state.

According to sources, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan discussed the resumption of dialogue with the Taliban with the outgoing army chief Gen (retd) Ashfaq Parvez Kayani on Sunday.

Initial plans for dialogue were scuttled last month after a US drone strike killed TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud. Hakimullah’s successor Mullah Fazlullah ruled out any prospect of dialogue following the incident, prompting harsh criticism from Islamabad, particularly from Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan.

The US does not want peace in Pakistan,” Nisar had said in the aftermath of the attack.

According to a senior interior ministry official, Nisar is likely to announce the government’s new strategy regarding talks with the TTP by the end of this month.

Before a formal announcement can be made, however, the government wants an assurance from the US that the drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal areas would come to a halt, ministry officials said. They added that the interior minister wants a categorical policy statement from Washington before he sends a delegation of Ulema to the Taliban.

The officials said Nisar would also seek input from Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. The JUI-F chief convened a jirga in Peshawar last week to buttress official attempts to restart talks with the TTP and safeguard the process from being derailed again.

Talking to The Express Tribune, JUI-F spokesman Jan Achakzai said the Taliban would resume talks if they were assured the initiative was ‘genuine and not a gimmick’. “They need to be assured that the government is doing everything it can to win their trust,” he said.

Experts, however, don’t expect any major breakthrough in the near future. They said the government’s efforts could only be fruitful if it succeeded in getting Washington’s consent to halt drone strikes in the tribal areas.

An authority on the Taliban, Rahimullah Yusafzai, did not see the existing environment as conducive for resuming peace talks.

“If the government wants meaningful dialogue with TTP, it needs to complete its homework first… the current environment is simply not conducive for the initiative,” he said.

“Although the TTP did not carry out a wave of revenge attacks after Hakimullah’s death, the group’s new chief is unwilling to start talks with the government… This, in itself, puts a question mark on restarting the peace talks,” he added.

Though TTP did not manage to conduct wave of revenge attacks after Hakimullah’s death as they claimed they would, the newly appointed TTP chief is unwilling to start peace talks with the government which raises a big question mark on the opening of talks with Taliban, he added.

When contacted, Interior Ministry spokesperson Omar Hameed Khan said there was willingness for talks on ‘both sides’. “But nothing is concrete yet,” he said, without explaining the statement.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 2nd, 2013.


Eddied | 9 years ago | Reply

If the government is truly serious about talking with TTP they simply have to tell the US government what they are doing and the US has promised to stop drones during talks!...I think the real issue is whether there will be any talking with the TTP? far they have said that talks are a " waste of time"...if any of the Taliban sympatheisers in the country can actually bring the TTP to the table remains to be seen...the rest is just political posturing...

max | 9 years ago | Reply Uh oh! Last time they used conclusive stage..we had a bad outcome the very next day. Watch out people ..
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