ISLAMABAD/PESHAWAR - In response to Taliban’s showing renewed interest in peace talks, the government has reiterated that only some substantive steps by the banded TTP could defreeze the peace process.
Federal Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said on Wednesday that the ball is in Tehreek-i-Taliban’s (TTP) court and government was waiting for their response on announcement of unilateral cessation of terrorist activities.
The members of government committee for negotiations said there was no change in their stance on resumption of talks and now it was up to TTP leadership to come up with some explanations on killing of 23 FC men in captivity by their Mohmand Agency chapter and announcement of truce.
Sources in the government committee informed The Nation that some of the committee members were approached by TTP nominated committee chief Samiul Haq, but he was simply told that without some tangible measures on part of TTP, like announcement of unilateral cessation of hostilities across the country and denouncing the killing of FC men by their associates, the talks could not be resumed.
Sources further informed that Sami also approached Federal Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan and discussed with him the deadlock in peace parleys, but Nisar too refused to play any role in the given situation and advised him to influence TTP leadership for unilateral announcement of truce and stopping of all sorts of terrorist and subversive activities.
Talking to media persons here at Rawalpindi Arts Council, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said that the fate of talks depended on the response of TTP leadership, and that the government was waiting for the reply from the TTP nominated committee. To a question about the future strategy of the government, Pervaiz said it would all depend on the TTP response, as he quickly added that no one should have any doubt about the capability of armed forces which had come up to the expectations of the nation whenever put to trial.
The minister said that country’s armed forces and police personnel are rated among the best soldiers and their performance as part of UN forces in bringing peace in troubled areas all over world remains remarkable. “If our army and police have performed all over the world, they could bring peace to the troubled areas at home,” he added.
To another question, Pervaiz Rashid said that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif wanted to resolve the issue of terrorism through negotiations and entered into dialogue process with all sincerity. He said that things were proceeding well but the continuation of terrorist activities by the Taliban damaged the peace process. He questioned that under which sharia TTP has killed the 23 FC men in captivity, adding that the Taliban should explain their position. Even India had not killed a single prisoner out of the 90,000 Pakistani prisoners in 1971 and treated them as per Geneva Convention, and the same treatment was meted out to Indian prisoners in Pakistani custody, he added.
A member of government committee Rustam Shah Mohmand said that the deadlock will continue until TTP announced unconditional ceasefire and released civilian prisoners. Rustam Shah said that the ball is in the Taliban’s court. He said that meeting between the government and Taliban committees will not take place until ceasefire from Taliban and even if they meet, it would produce no positive result. He called upon Taliban to release the civilian prisoners as goodwill gesture to pave way for resumption of talks.
Taliban-named committee member Prof Ibrahim Khan, reacting to the government demand that Taliban should announce a ceasefire, said that ceasefire from one side is not possible. Talking to media in Peshawar, he said they had no contact with either government committee or the TTP after the killing of FC personnel. “How things would move toward betterment, he couldn’t say anything. The peace process can make headway only through continued contacts.”
Ibrahim, a Jamat-i-Islami leader, said the TTP has claimed responsibility for FC men’s killing and they have also clarified their stance. He said the dialogue committees should probe such unfortunate incidents to ascertain who wanted to sabotage the peace process. He said that the dialogue can only be forwarded if both the committees sit together and sort out the problems.
On the other hand, TTP committee’s coordinator Yousuf Shah said on Wednesday that despite the attempts of creating a deadlock by some elements, they would continue their efforts to resume peace talks. “The negotiating committees on February 17 were near success and ceasefire was also to be announced, but certain unfavourable incidents created deadlock in the peace process,” Yousaf said while speaking at a news conference here at press club.
He said that Taliban had not presented any demand, rather, only the way for holding talks were being discussed at that time. About the clarification from government’s committee regarding the killing of FC men by TTP and conditions of ceasefire, he said the way forward for that could only be through the dialogue process. Yousaf said the government committee coordinator Irfan Siddiqui didn’t make any contact with them since the deadlock. He added they were ready to resume the halted negotiation process if government desired.
Yousaf said that TTP had contacted all its groups which were bound to obey the decision of its central shura. The JUI-S leader also viewed that sincerity was there in both the Taliban and government and expressed the hope that the nation will soon hear good news. However, if the policy of use of force was opted, the whole nation would have to pay a heavy price, he warned. He said that he had a phone chat with Interior Minister Nisar Khan who expressed his wish to continue the negotiation process.