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‘Free zone’ demand rejected
| Security forces tell civilian leadership they’ll keep pre-ceasefire positions | Release of non-combatants likely
 
 
 
‘Free zone’ demand rejected

LAHORE - The security services of the country have conveyed to their civilian bosses that they can’t accept Taliban’s demand for fixing a certain area in tribal region as ‘free zone’.
As part of their conditions for peace talks, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had demanded the government declare a specific area in the tribal belt a ‘free or peace zone’.
But highly-placed sources close to the security establishment told this correspondent on Wednesday that security services, which were the most important party in the peace process, have plainly refused this demand of the militants and they would continue to hold the pre-ceasefire positions without moving even a single soldier out of the tribal areas.
TTP shura members in their first direct meeting with government peace committee some days ago had told the government team that there were security forces’ check points at several places in the tribal region which inhabits Taliban’s free movement there.
Sources said that senior members of the security apparatus were of the considered opinion that fixing a certain area for meetings with TTP members to pursue talks would not be advisable from security point of view.
They also think that the TTP leadership, if serious in advancing peace dialogue, should not be afraid of the security forces as they are following the government orders, have announced a ceasefire since the start of the peace process and they would act upon it as long as the talks continue.
A senior government peace committee member requesting not to be named told this scribe that some government quarters were considering TTP demand for declaring a certain area as free zone in the tribal region as they believe that peace process should not be disrupted for any reason.
However, at least two members of the government peace committee while opposing any such demand for several reasons have recommended to the government that meetings with TTP team should be held at different places and the location of these meetings should be kept highly secret.
He said that peace committee members, who opposed even considering this demand, were of the opinion that though major groups of the TTP sincerely desire success of the process, declaring any location as free zone in the tribal region would not only legitimise the authority of the militants but also boost the morale of their volunteer support network.
Asked if the TTP would observe an unannounced ceasefire after the expiry of the announced ceasefire, he said, “Government peace team as well as TTP named committee’s chief (JUI-S ameer Samiul Haq) have told the Taliban’s negotiating team during the first direct meeting that the government would act upon the ceasefire till the final result of the talks and the TTP should do the same.” He added: Today is the second day of TTP’s unannounced ceasefire as the announced ceasefire ended on March 31. I don’t expect that TTP will violate their unannounced ceasefire.
He said that threat level in certain areas of the country has came down from ‘highly sensitive’ to ‘general’ since April 1, which indicates that security establishment believes that the TTP would follow unannounced ceasefire. “I think that government is too busy in Musharraf business; however, another direct meeting with TTP team is expected in the next few days.”
Senior government peace team member told that TTP prisoners, who were not involved in high crimes are likely to be freed, however the matter of combatant prisoners completely depends upon the input from the security establishment which maintains their complete profile.
Meanwhile, close circles of TTP mediators said that the government should not make a long pause for any reason and hold the next direct meeting with the TTP as soon as possible, as any inordinate delay would generate doubts about the sincerity of the government.

 
 
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