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TTP announces 20-day cease-fire with Islamabad

Announcement by major group under Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan comes hours after premier confirmed talks in Afghanistan

A major group under the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Friday announced a 20-day cease-fire with the Pakistan Army.

The development came hours after Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an interview with TRT World, revealed that his government was negotiating with “some” TTP groups based in Afghanistan to “surrender.”

The Afghan Taliban, he went on to say, are mediating between Islamabad and the TTP, the mother group of several militant outfits in Pakistan.

In an audio message released to the journalists, Saddar Hayat, a senior commander of the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, one of the two key groups within the TTP, can be heard directing his deputies to suspend “all kind of operations” against the government forces, mainly in the restive North Waziristan tribal region, until Oct. 20.

Read more: Pak Army eliminates top TTP leader in North Waziristan

Contending that the “tribal elders” there were engaged in “negotiations” with the government, he also urged militant commanders to “stay within their (respective) areas” but desist from carrying out any operations until further orders.

Minutes after the announcement, the Hakeemullah Mehsud group rejected the cease-fire, asking its members to continue their operations against Pakistani forces.

In a statement, Mohammad Khurasani, a purported TTP spokesman, said the militant consortium had no “groupings” and denied that it had “announced any cease-fire anywhere.”

Formed in 2007 in the tribal South Waziristan district, the coalition has been involved in numerous attacks, including suicide bombings inside Pakistan.

The network later moved to North Waziristan — once dubbed the heartland of militancy — following an army onslaught on South Waziristan in 2010.

Another large-scale army operation in 2014 pushed the TTP towards neighboring Afghanistan and Islamabad claims the terrorist network has now set up bases across the border to attack Pakistani security forces.

The Hakeemullah Mehsud and Gul Bahadur groups are the two main entities within the TTP. Peace talks between Islamabad and the TTP have been held several times since 2007 but failed to produce results.

Opposition rejects peace talks

Warning that the government’s move to hold negotiations was “dangerous,” the two main opposition parties in Pakistan, the Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said it was tantamount to “sprinkling salt” on those killed by the TTP.

Khawaja Asif, a former foreign minister and a current PML-N member, told local broadcaster Geo News that the TTP has been involved in killing of “thousands of Pakistani forces and civilians.”

Read more: Afghan Taliban warn TTP leaders, ask to settle issues with Pakistan

Citing the killing of over 150 children in a terrorist attack claimed by the TTP in 2016 in northwestern city of Peshawar, Asif said: “This all cannot be erased so easily.”

Senator Sherry Rehman, a senior PPP leader, said on Twitter: “Again the PM wants to give amnesty to the TTP. Has he asked parliament what we think about that? And has he heard the TTP response?”

“How can the government give amnesty to TTP? They are responsible for deaths of APS (army public school) children, thousands of our troops, and (former premier) Benazir Bhutto,” she went on to say.

Read more: Govt. offers second chance to TTP militants desiring to shun militancy

Rana Tanvir Hussain, a former Defense Production Minister, said that there was no need to talk with a “fractured and scattered” TTP.

Anadolu with additional input by GVS News Desk