With the prevailing communication gap between negotiators from the two sides, the virtually stalled peace talks between the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) hinges on a ceasefire announcement by the latter.
Though both sides say they have not given up yet, there has been no contact between the two negotiating committees since a scheduled meeting was called off after the TTP Mohmand Agency chapter claimed late Sunday that they have executed 23 FC troops to avenge the alleged killing of their men by security agencies.
The government negotiators met on Tuesday for about one-and-a-half hour and then informed the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, that it was not possible for the committee to carry on with peace talks under the circumstances.
“It does not mean that we have given up or the committee and the peace process have been abandoned,” the coordinator of the four-member government negotiating committee, Irfan Siddiqui, told The Express Tribune. “Once we get assurance that they [the Taliban] would stop all activities and ensure implementation [of the ceasefire], things would be back on track.”
Commenting on the communication gap between the two sides, Siddiqui said there were other avenues that could be used to convey a message if the two committees were not having a formal meeting.
On the other hand, TTP intermediary committee’s coordinator Maulana Yousaf Shah said, “We are not in contact with the government committee but are in constant touch with the Taliban.” Talking to The Express Tribune, he said that “issues cannot be addressed through the media”. He was referring to the recently published and aired statements of the government.
Asked about the government’s demand of the Taliban announcing a ceasefire, Shah said, “The demand would be discussed when we sit together – not through the media.”
Govt committee informs PM of decision
After taking input from the committee, the prime minister held a meeting with army chief General Raheel Sharif and discussed the issue in detail.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister House, the government committee said that the talks could not progress without any solid steps. It also asked the Taliban to cease all violent activities unconditionally without any delay.
The committee told the prime minister that it would be futile to carry on after the deadlock and it would not be possible to yield the result the nation was expecting. “The committee told the premier that they have unanimously decided not to hold scheduled talks with the Taliban committee as it is meaningless now,” reads the statement.
They informed the premier that they had been patient but the reaction from the other side was discouraging with back-to-back violent activities.
“The situation has completely changed after the Mohmand incident and the committee is unable to continue peace talks until the Taliban cease all violent activities,” the statement quoted the committee members as saying. However, the negotiators said they would be available for any consultation and assistance to the prime minister.
TTP wants dialogue to continue: Prof Ibrahim
A member of the Taliban committee, Prof. Mohammad Ibrahim said that he contacted a senior member of the TTP Political Shura who expressed the desire for dialogue to continue.
“I discussed [the matter] with Azam Tariq and told him that if they have any complaint against the government or security agencies, they should not attack the security forces anywhere in the country,” he told The Express Tribune.
Prof Ibrahim said he tried to contact TTP central spokesperson Shahidullah Shaid many times via telephone but he could not get through due to technical problems.
He said the TTP has refused to accept the government’s denial of the killing of 16 Taliban members by the security agencies. Nevertheless, he condemned the Karachi blast as well as the Mohmand executions, saying, “The two incidents dealt a blow to the peace process.”
The Taliban need to stop such violent acts, he added. “Both sides should show restraint to ensure the success of talks,” he said in a press statement.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 19th, 2014.