ISLAMABAD - Still committed to continue ongoing dialogue process with the Taliban, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has expressed serious concern over the ongoing terrorist attacks which could derail the peace process.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on the other hand is expected to announce a ceasefire today as its political shura has formally agreed with government to hold fire, sources said on Sunday.
Premier Sharif expressed his views here at PM House on Sunday after having a detailed input on the dialogue process with Taliban committee from his Special Assistant Irfaq Siddiqui, who is also coordinator of the government team engaged in negotiation with the TTP.
Siddiqui briefed the PM on all the progress of the negotiations with TTP committee and said that the matter of ongoing terrorist attacks was taken up with the team and they had assured that after getting reply from TTP political shoora they would get back to them. The PM said that national security is supreme and it must take precedence on everything and he advised him to keep this thing in mind while negotiating with the militants' nominated team.
During the meeting Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan was also present and he updated the prime minister on his recent visit to Karachi and the issues relating to the MQM activist's alleged thrashing and killing in the security agencies custody. The Taliban's concentration and role in the port city of Karachi also came under discussion and it was decided that TTP team should be asked to halt their disruptive activities in Karachi as well, sources privy to the deliberations informed.
Siddiqui in his briefing also said that it was made clear to the TTP team that negotiations and terrorism could not go side by side and demanded of them that for keep the ball of negotiations rolling Taliban have to stop the terrorist attacks. The demand of TTP team to have meeting with PM, army chief and ISI DG also figured in the meeting and it was decided that when the peace talks would progress the meetings could be arranged at some later stage.
The other demands of the TTP as pre-condition to giving up terrorist attacks across the country, including release of some of their men in the government's custody, cessation of operation against them by the Armed Forces and other law enforcement agencies and reduction in military presence in the troubled Tribal Areas, also came under discussion.
Sources close to Samiul Haq, head of Taliban nominated committee, informed The Nation that TTP shura also wanted cessation of all sort of operations against their men in Tribal Areas as well as other parts of the country including major cities like Karachi. They said that they also wanted guarantees from prime minister and Chief of Army Staff in this regard.
Sources in the government said that prime minister was of the considered view that any demand which could undermine the national security or writ of the government would not be accepted. They said that now with set of demands from TTP nominated team in hand the government team would after having in-house discussion would approach the TTP team in a day or so for materialising the truce. The next meeting between the two would now be held on announcement of the truce from both the sides, the sources added.
Earlier in their meeting, both government and Taliban negotiation committees expressed concern over back to back terrorist incidents in the country have suggested a ceasefire from both the side, sources said adding that in this regard TTP is expected to announce a ceasefire within next 24 hours.
To make it possible, TTP's political shura met somewhere in Waziristan to deliberate on the government's demand for a truce to take forward a controversial and fragile peace process. They said that TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid would make the announcement of the possible ceasefire decision.
It has also been learnt that TTP has contacted Samiul Haq on the possible ceasefire. The sources added that there are bright chances that two members of government negotiation committee may leave for Miranshah to hold talks with Taliban shura directly, adding that this meeting may take place in next two days for 'direct dialogue' in which ceasefire announcement is highly likely. The direct talk is expected to deliver breakthrough, they said.
Talking to median person here in district Nowshera, member of Taliban negotiation committee Prof Ibrahim Khan said on Sunday that the process of negotiation has entered into a new phase. Outmost desire is to announce a ceasefire between TTP and government adding that it was a demand of the whole nation and it should be done very first. In this regard, he said the nation would soon hear good news soon.
He was much optimistic that talks would succeed adding those who wanted to sabotage the process would fail at all. He said that both Taliban and government were sincere and serious to have meaningful talks so that to restore peace in the country. He said that the government and Taliban negotiation committees have expressed their concerns over the terrorist incidents in Karachi and Peshawar.
Similarly, member of government negotiation committee Rustam Shah Mohmand Sunday said that this stage of dialogue was extremely crucial and it would be difficult to proceed without complete ceasefire on both sides. Talking to journalists he said that the time is very short and there are a lot of decisions to be taken by Taliban and government and without ceasefire it would be impossible to take these serious decisions. He said that government would definitely announce ceasefire if Taliban stops their activities in the country.
Rustam assured that both military and civilian leadership have unanimously opted the way of dialogue and both of them are on the same page in this connection. He said that so far army has played very positive role in dialogue process. He added that if Taliban are serious for dialogue then they should consider their request for ceasefire. He informed that they have the panacea to resolve the matter of Taliban and government detainees.
Government and Taliban-nominated committees have held preliminary talks aimed at ending the decade-long insurgency that has claimed some 40,000 lives.
However, there is growing scepticism that the process will produce a lasting solution, with observers pointing out that the Taliban have reneged on all past peace deals.
The TTP has carried out several terrorist attacks even after joining the peace process. Government negotiators had earlier this week made it clear that further attacks would not be tolerated. They had said that if attacks continued, "it would become difficult to continue the dialogue process". Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has also expressed concern over these attacks as Taliban have taken responsibility for Karachi and Peshawar attacks.