ISLAMABAD - The peace parleys between the government and the Taliban faced a blow on Tuesday as government committee did not turn up for meeting with TTP-nominated team and an enraged head of the Taliban representatives, Samiul Haq, left for Akora Khattak after levelling allegations on the government side.
The maiden meeting of the two sides could not take place over lack of mutual coordination among the 4-member government committee and a discord over venue of the meeting between the two sides, according to sources in the government.
They said the government team members were not ready to meet the other side at Jamat-i-Islami’s Islamabad office. Some unconfirmed reports said that the Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) coordinators too had refused to sit at any government place.
The government team held their own meeting Tuesday morning and some members expressed their concern over the unilateral decision of Coordinator Irfan Siddiqui to hold inaugural meeting with TTP’s representatives without consulting the other members of the committee.
The committee, which met at Prime Minister’s House, decided to defer the meeting with TTP-designated team till the provision of some basic conditions for talks and inclusion of new members if any by the TTP leadership to fill the slots vacated due to refusal of Imran Khan and Mufti Kifayatullah of JUI-F to be part of the Taliban team.
However, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid latter in the day said that the three-member committee nominated by the Taliban was final now and the government should hold talks with it. In a statement, he said that no new name would be added to their committee and JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq had been informed about it.
Sources said that the government team also decided that the meeting with the team of TTP’s representatives, comprising Samiul Haq, Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz and JI’s KPK Amir Prof Ibrahim, should be held at some neutral place and that was one of the reasons for deferment of Tuesday’s meeting at JI office in the federal capital.
They also said that another couple of people having influence in different Taliban factions, like Moulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, could be inducted in the government’s team in coming days. The sources said that Irfan Siddiqui later asked Samiul Haq about their mandate for holding talks and the pre-conditions if any from the TTP leadership.
When Siddiqui informed about their inability to come for the meeting, Sami got infuriated and blew hot and cold and he dubbed the government committee ‘non-serious and powerless’. Later, on the request of Samiul Haq, TTP spokesman Shahid Ullah Shahid came up with a strong worded statement telling that they would not be giving any further names and the government has to talk with the three-member committee.
Flanked by Prof Ibrahim and Abdul Aziz, JUI-S chief Samiul Haq grilled the government team for their non-serious attitude toward the ‘very sensitive and important’ matter and said that they were having the complete backing of TTP and were all powerful to take decisions on their Taliban’s behalf. Sami said that government’s attitude showed that it was under great pressure to abandon dialogue with Taliban, adding the situation appears to be leading toward military operation.
The ‘Maulana’, who is also known as father of the Taliban for raising and nurturing the Taliban during ‘Afghan Jihad’, said internal and external forces that did not want peace in the country were pressing the government to back out from peace parleys. He said his team was waiting for government committee but after two hours they were informed that the other side was not coming because they wanted some explanations. He claimed that the government committee was not powerful. “They are powerless, (and therefore) unable to get access to Taliban.”
The JUI-S chief said it was responsibility of the government to hold the peace talks and the government committee should have contacted them first. He said this kind of attitude could provoke Taliban, adding that his team has requested Taliban not to lose patience. He said his team would try its best to play the role of a bridge between the government and Taliban as long as possible. Sami asserted that Taliban have given them full mandate and authority for the talks. When asked if Taliban should open their office in Islamabad, he said “every mosque in the capital and across the country is their office”.
After the statement of TTP spokesman and Samiul Haq’s strong-worded press talk, the government committee members decided to hold meeting with them at some neutral place. But by then Sami had left for his seminary in Akora Khattak and expressed his inability to return immediately for a meeting. Sources said that now the meeting between the two sides would be arranged after fresh consultation.