Taliban are angry brothers, not terrorists: Yousaf

| Ibrahim says govt, TTP to form special committee for prisoners’ release | Talks moving ahead with CBMs

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD - “The members of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are not terrorists, they are the government’s angry brothers,” a local media outlet Sunday reported coordinator of Taliban named mediatory committee Yousaf Shah as saying.
His statement came after TTP intermediary Professor Muhammad Ibrahim announced that the government committee will meet the TTP shura soon for the second round of their face to face talks.
The senior leader of politico-religious Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party said that TTP is being contacted in order to finalise venue of talks and their mediatory team would leave for North Waziristan Agency (NWA) in next 2-3 days to hold an important meeting with TTP leadership.
Ibrahim claimed that confidence has been built up between the government and the Taliban during the ongoing negotiation phase while more prisoners are expected to be released in near future. He said that TTP shura session is expected to be organised within two days and Taliban committee will discuss the release of prisoners in their captivity.
Talking to a private television channel, he said that government and the TTP were working on a mechanism for release of prisoners, adding that both sides were moving forward with full confidence. Ibrahim said success of talks between the government and Taliban would fulfil the dream of peace in the country. He said that talks were proceeding ahead and the dream for peace would be fulfilled with the success of talks.
According to sources, it has been decided to form a special committee and design a mechanism for the release of prisoners. The committee will check the list of prisoners and would forward its recommendations after reviewing the crime if committed by the prisoner.
Earlier, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had announced that 12-13 more Taliban prisoners will be released and the total number of released prisoners before upcoming meeting between government and Taliban representatives would reach 30. He said that Taliban will also have to release non-combatant prisoners, including sons of late Governor Salaam Taseer and former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, because single-handed clap is not possible.
Addressing media after chairing a joint meeting of government and TTP named mediators at Punjab House on Saturday, he said it is difficult to bring peace though conducting military operation is no big deal. He said that the government is passing through a patience-testing phase, but matters are proceeding in a positive way. Nisar said that primary objective is to restore peace while staying within bounds of law and constitution, adding that the process of release of non-combatant prisoners was in progress.
Earlier, South Waziristan’s political administration released 16 Taliban prisoners on April 2 as a goodwill gesture. According to reports, those freed were arrested during various search operations in South Waziristan two years ago. Sources say the freed men include Mera Jan, Abdullah Jan, Salamat Khan, Bandshah Gul, Abdul Aziz, Noorzada, Satta Jan, Saddam Hussain, Ziauddin, Sher Pao, Riaz Ali, Mir Alam, Sher Alam Khan, Iqbal and Noor Alam. Reportedly, these men belong to TTP and ethnically they are Mehsoods.
But Taliban spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid, however, later denied that these men were on TTP’s list of 300 non-combatants they wanted to be released. After yesterday’s meeting with the TTP committee, Interior Minister Nisar had said that they have decided to release 12-13 more Taliban prisoners, who he said were on the list provided by the TTP.
The release of “non-combatant” detainees, as demanded by the TTP, has been a contentious issue from the outset – with some officials having earlier denied that security forces were even holding any non-combatants.
The peace talks, which began in February, were a key campaign pledge for PM Nawaz Sharif before he was elected to office for a third time last year. The talks between the government and Taliban struck an impasse last month after the Taliban-linked militants murdered 23 kidnapped Pakistani paramilitary soldiers. The killings resulted in multiple targeted airstrikes by the military against suspected hideouts in the tribal northwest bordering with Afghanistan.
The Taliban then announced a one-month ceasefire which was reciprocated by the government which halted its airstrikes targeting militants and their hideouts. The dialogue process has entered its decisive stage now while the Taliban have also announced an extension in their cease fire until April 10.

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