Pakistan’s information minister confirms talks with militant outfit are underway; TTP announces cease-fire
In a major breakthrough, Pakistan and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the mother coalition of several militant groups in Pakistan, have reached a “complete” cease-fire, a government minister confirmed on Monday.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry told a press conference in the capital Islamabad that the two sides have been engaged in “negotiations” in line with the country’s Constitution.
The cease-fire, he went on to say, would be extended, keeping the progress of the talks with the militant network in view.
Chaudhry also said Afghanistan’s Taliban interim administration has “facilitated” the talks aimed at restoring peace in the country’s restive northwestern tribal region, which borders Afghanistan, and is a former stomping ground of the militant network.
He said Pakistan’s sovereignty, national security, peace in relevant areas, and social and economic stability will be considered in the talks.
The TTP, for its part, announced a month-long cease-fire with security forces from Nov. 9 to Dec. 9.
In a statement to the media, the outlawed network, said that the cease-fire could be extended with the mutual consent of both sides.
It also confirmed the Afghan Taliban’s facilitation of the ongoing negotiations with the government.
The development came less than a month after Prime Minister Imran Khan, in an interview with Turkish-based news channel 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, were mediating between Islamabad and the TTP, the mother group of several militant outfits in Pakistan.
The TTP’s Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, one of the two major groups under the TTP umbrella, had announced a 20-day cease-fire with the Pakistan Army days after Khan’s interview.
However, minutes after, the Hakeemullah Mehsud group rejected the cease-fire, asking its members to continue their operations against Pakistani forces.
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 the 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 yield results.