The Pakistan government has started talks with the domestic Taliban movement, the country’s information minister said Monday, possibly paving the way for members of an organisation long branded an international terror group to surrender and be given amnesty.
In a televised statement, Fawad Chaudhry said Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) — which has close links to the movement that retook power in neighbouring Afghanistan in August — had promised a “complete ceasefire” that would hold as long as talks progressed.
Thousands of TTP fighters are believed to be in Afghanistan, mostly in the rugged eastern highlands neighbouring Pakistan, where they sought shelter after a military crackdown nearly a decade ago.
The Pakistan Taliban was responsible for plunging the country into its most violent period after it formed in 2007 in anger at Islamabad’s support for the United States and its war against terror.
Made up mostly of ethnic Pashtuns, like the Afghan Taliban, it carried out hundreds of suicide and bomb attacks and kidnappings across the country for years before being crushed by a massive military operation.
Its 2012 shooting of Nobel peace prize winner Malala Yousafzai — then a student in a border region under the control of the militants — shocked the world. But it wasn’t until the massacre of nearly 150 children at a Peshawar school two years later that authorities moved forcibly.
Chaudhry said negotiations with TTP — which remains banned — will take place “under the constitution and law of Pakistan”.
“Under an agreement, the government of Pakistan and the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have agreed on a complete ceasefire. Talks with the TTP, will be held under the constitution and law of Pakistan,” Information Minister, @fawadchaudhry pic.twitter.com/5WbIpYRQ4s
— Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud (@IhsanTipu) November 8, 2021
“State sovereignty, national integrity, peace, social and economic stability in the respective areas will be a priority in these talks,” he said.
“The affected people in these areas cannot be ignored in these talks.”
The government at the weekend lifted a ban on another radical group, Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan (TLP), which for years staged a series of disruptive protests mainly linked to the flashpoint issue of blasphemy in Muslim-majority Pakistan.
Officials said late Sunday the move was in the “national interest”, coming after seven police officers were killed in clashes during a rally that began last month.
Chaudhry said Monday that Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers had played “a facilitating role” in encouraging talks with the Pakistan movement.
Analysts say Pakistan’s support for Afghanistan’s Taliban helped encourage the growth of the domestic chapter until it got out of control and sought power in its own right.
Thousands of Pakistan Taliban fled to Afghanistan during the military crackdown and fought alongside fighters there to overthrow the US-backed government.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk