LAHORE/ISLAMABAD - An informal demand made by a member of TTP mediators’ team for the release of militant prisoners of Taliban has rung ‘alarm bells’ among the state security apparatus concerning the seriousness of TTP to take the peace talks to their logical end.
Professor Ibrahim, a member TTP mediators’ team, talking to media persons on Friday, said non-combatant prisoners of the Taliban should be released as a confidence-building measure, but the government should also free those TTP militants who were cleared by certain institutions.
On the other hand, country's civil and military leadership Friday unanimously rejected Taliban demand for a 'demilitarised peace zone' considering it against the spirit of law and constitution but 'cautiously' conceded to their demand of realising some non-combatant prisoners as a good will gesture.
Highly-placed sources close to the country’s security establishment told this correspondent that security services which were already reviewing the TTP non-combatants’ lists have read with serious concern TTP’s informal demand through Professor Ibrahim for the release of their militants. Ibrahim’s statement has made the security establishment to reassess the TTP intentions.
A senior member of the government, requesting not to be named, said Ibrahim’s spelling out the informal demand of TTP for the release of their militant prisoners at a time when the government was working on releasing the non-combatant detainees had raised concerns. “I think it is not a measured statement by a senior member of TTP mediators’ team when the talks are already moving at a slow pace,” he observed.
Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid, talking to The Nation, restricted himself to few words, “The top political and military leadership have discussed the overall issues of security and threats facing the country.”
A four-liner official statement said a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the matters relating to national security and was attended by the Chief of Army Staff, ISI Director General, interior minister and Prime Minister's Special Assistant Tariq Fatmi.
Sources privy to the development said that Interior Minister Ch Nisar and ISI DG Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam gave briefings about the state of peace talks with TTP as well as security on Pak-Afghan border. Nisar informed the meeting that talks were on positive trajectory and the government has decided to release some of their non-combatant prisoners as a good will gesture.
To this extent the prime minister and the Army Chief General Raheel Sharif endorsed the move but they were unanimous in rejecting TTP demand for creation of demilitarised peace zone near North Waziristan Agency. They said neither the demand was lawful and constitutional nor the security forces can think of leaving the areas under Taliban control in the given situation.
Instead they expected that TTP should force the foreign militants in that region to leave Pakistan and forcefully purge its ranks of those militants who are opposed to peace talks. The meeting also expected that TTP well reciprocate the release of their non-combatants with setting free all hostages in their custody. The meeting was of the affirmed view that peace talks should be result oriented with a definite timeframe.
Ch Nisar informed the meeting that another meeting between the government and TTP designated committees is expected today (Saturday) to finalise agenda and strategy to proceed. ISI DG briefed about the internal security with special reference to Pak-Afghan border and informed that the security forces have put in place comprehensive measures on the border to stop all kind of border crossings since March 20.
Appreciating the step prime minister remarked that the move would help facilitate Afghan government to hold peaceful elections scheduled to be held in the war town country today. The meeting also discussed the post US forces drawdown situation in Afghanistan. On that prime minister emphasised the need for upholding the principle of non-interference saying any kind of interference would destabilise Afghanistan.
Supporting democratic transition in Afghanistan, the PM made it clear that Pakistan has no favourites whatsoever in Afghanistan. He reiterated the government policy of supporting whole heartedly Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace and reconciliation process in that country. "Peace and stability in Afghanistan is in fundamental interest of Pakistan", he was quoted as saying.