A high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday gave the go-ahead to the four-member government negotiating committee to resume the stalled peace process with Taliban intermediaries, official sources said.
The prime minister convened the emergency meeting to discuss the security situation hours after suicide bombers struck at the Islamabad district courts.
The meeting was attended by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Finance Minister Ishaq Dar as well as army chief General Raheel Sharif and ISI’s Director General Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam. Prior to the huddle, the premier also held a separate meeting with Gen Sharif.
A source, familiar with the development, told The Express Tribune that although the top civil and military authorities strongly condemned the latest attack, they approved the resumption of stalled peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
There was no official statement issued by the government following the emergency meeting, however.
The talks were suspended last month after the TTP Mohmand chapter executed 23 Frontier Corps personnel. The killing had prompted the military to launch surgical air strikes against militants’ hideouts in the tribal areas.
However on Sunday, the government called off the air raids while reciprocating the announcement of a one-month ceasefire by the TTP a day earlier.
The government committee’s coordinator, Irfan Siddiqui, told The Express Tribune that the premier had given the go-ahead to the committee to meet the Taliban intermediaries.
He also confirmed that the government and the TTP committees would meet on Tuesday (today). “The government will seek s clarification from the TTP intermediaries about the Islamabad attack and explore ways to take the peace process forward,” he added.
Siddiqui’s colleague in the committee, Major (retd) Muhammad Aamir, meanwhile, proposed that the committee be disbanded and concerned state functionaries take over the matter.
He had already shared this proposal with the interior minister but now he will present it when the committee meets the prime minister on Tuesday. “For successful talks with the TTP, the army, the interior minister and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s governor and chief minister should be given the pivotal role,” he told The Express Tribune.
Rustam Shah Mohmand, another member of the government committee, did not agree with Maj Aamir’s proposal. “It is up to the prime minister to constitute another team of negotiators or anything else,” he said in reaction.
However, Major Aamir claimed that two government negotiators –Mohmand and Rahimullah Yousafzai – also believe that the committee has lost its utility. “They expressed these views during the committee’s last meeting.”
When asked, Siddiqi denied any differences among the government negotiators on how to proceed with the process.
Professor Ibrahim Khan, member of the Taliban committee, hoped that Islamabad attack would not undermine efforts to strike a peace deal.
“I will quit the talks if evidence is found about the involvement of Taliban in Islamabad attack,” Ibrahim added.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 4th, 2014.