ISLAMABAD - With consensus on extension of ceasefire from both sides, government and Taliban nominated peace panels have constituted a sub-committee to look into the complaints of the two sides against each other and remove hiccups in the peace process.
Both peace panels met here at Punjab House Wednesday evening under the chair of Federal Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan, showing serious reservations against each other, a source aware of the deliberations of the meeting informed The Nation.
The government side expressed serious concerns over calling off the ceasefire by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) shura and the provocative statements from TTP spokesman Shahid Ullah Shahid, openly doubting the sincerity of government toward peace parleys and announcing to attack the security personnel and installations.
The TTP nominated peace panel also came up with a number of complaints against the government for showing complete indifference toward even the ‘genuine’ demands of militants, a source in the panel informed, adding that they have also pointed out the ‘wavering’ of the government from its promise of releasing non-combatant prisoners.
Informed sources said that government wanted release of some of their civilians and foreigners captives in the custody of militants – including the scions of former Premier Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani and late Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.
They said Samiul Haq has asked the government negotiation team to give the list of their prisoners in Taliban custody and they would discuss the issue with TTP leaders in the upcoming direct contact and would work out some plan for prisoner swap. The TTP concern about alleged kidnapping of their people by the security agencies and harsh treatment to them while in custody was also conveyed to government team.
After a thorough discussion on these issues it was mutually decided to constitute a sub-committee to look into the authenticity of these allegations for which all facilities to this sub-committee would be provided by the interior ministry, announced chief of TTP nominated peace panel Samiul Haq in media chat after the meeting.
When contacted the Taliban named peace panel coordinator Yousuf Shah said they would try to get the ceasefire resumed by the Taliban and would also make arrangements for direct contact between the government and Taliban shura in coming days. When asked about the composition of the sub-committee, Shah said obviously the members in the sub-committee would be from both the peace panels but the names of the members would be announced later.
After the meeting of both the peace panels, which was the first interaction between the two after calling off the ceasefire by the Taliban, Samiul Haq termed the meeting productive and positive. He was once again upbeat about the fate of peace parleys and hoped that the next direct contact between government and TTP shura would be made during the current week.
“We will make contact with the Taliban shura to decide about the date and venue of the meeting in a couple of days,” he announced after the talks. Admitting expressing of some serious concerns from both the sides, Sami said that they have decided to constitute a sub-committee to look into the problems and allegations and verify them by moving into the troubled areas for which logistic support would be provided by government.
Sami said they would try to get the ceasefire restored and he praised the government for adopting restraint even after ending of the ceasefire by the militants. He said both sides sincerely wanted to take the peace process forward and hoped that people would hear good news in this connection.
A source in government said that the constitution of a sub-committee would further slow down the peace process, which is already moving at snail’s pace, quickly adding that despite pledges from both sides to put the peace process back on track the chances of Taliban accepting government’s demands seem bleak. Similarly, some of the demands of Taliban are illogical and government could not meet them at all, he added.
A member of Taliban nominated peace panel admitted there was huge trust deficit between the two sides and despite serious efforts they have failed to bridge it. Before holding meeting with both the peace panels, Interior Minister Ch Nisar held a meeting with the prime minister and discussed the overall situation on this front with him.
A source in the PM House confirmed that Premier Sharif, sincerely wanted to achieve negotiated settlement of the dispute with militants and in this connection he was standing behind the peace committees. A day before in Karachi, the Premier had expressed his resolve to bring peace and downplayed the impasse in the peace process.