The first direct talks between the government negotiators and members of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Political Shura were postponed apparently due to bad weather.
A four-member government committee and Taliban intermediaries were to travel to an undisclosed location in the tribal areas on Tuesday for the crucial face-to-face meeting with TTP representatives.
Professor Ibrahim Khan, a TTP intermediary who was also scheduled to join the second phase of talks, told reporters outside the Al-Markaz-i-Islami in Peshawar that negotiations would now take place in the next couple of days if the weather holds up.
A government member of the committee told The Express Tribune that given the weather forecast for the tribal areas, they are unlikely to travel even on Wednesday.
However, talks will take place this week, he added.
About the venue of the meeting, Prof. Ibrahim said that it would be held at a location where both the government and the Taliban have writ, but at the moment nothing could be revealed due to security reasons.
Some officials, meanwhile, attributed the delay in the much-anticipated meeting to the TTP Shura’s indecisiveness regarding the venue. “They are still sceptical and kept on changing the venue,” said an official familiar with the development.
The Taliban political council fears they might be tracked down by security agencies, which is why they cannot confirm the final venue.
Prof. Ibrahim told reporters the TTP would be represented by its four-member team, including Qari Shakeel, Azam Tariq, Maulvi Zakir and Maulvi Bashir. Professor Ibrahim and Maulana Yousaf Shah, the coordinator of the TTP intermediary committee, would also attend the meeting.
The four-member government committee is headed by Ports and Shipping Secretary Habibullah Khattak, while its other members include Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) Additional Secretary Arbab Arif, Prime Minister’s Office Additional Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad and former diplomat Rustam Shah Mohmand.
Ibrahim said the TTP’s Political Shura has also completed and formed their agenda for the upcoming meeting.
The Taliban have assured their intermediaries that they would take measures to convince other groups involved in terrorist activities to maintain truce, he explained.
Prof. Ibrahim clarified that the Taliban were not demanding the implementation of Shariah, but proposed the release of their non-combatant prisoners. “It will be better for both sides to release each other’s non-combatant prisoners.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 26th, 2014.
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