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Setback to Pakistan as Taliban rejects Army’s plea to arm-twist TTP

Taliban rejects Army's plea (Image Courtesy: Twitter/@voadeewa)

The Pakistani army’s handpicked Tribal Jirga is back in Pakistan after talks with the banned militant organisation Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) or Pakistan Taliban. No breakthrough could be achieved as the TTP was firm on its demand—FATA’s de-merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. But both sides have decided to continue a protracted dialogue for the next three months.  

“We can meet in between and will continue to remain in touch to exchange ideas but the three months’ time frame is for us to complete our work within this time period,” Dawn quoted one Jirga member as saying.

According to AfPak watchers, the TTP leaders are under pressure from their host Sirajuddin Haqqani  – the chief of banned Haqqani Network and the Interior Minister of Taliban,  who is also under pressure from the Pakistani army. Haqqani, who is mediating the peace talks, told the TTP leaders that the Taliban regime had been threatened by the Pakistani army. “Any attack from this side irks Pakistan, which creates problems for us with our neighbour and such incidents have international ramifications for the Islamic emirate”, the member quoted Haqqani as saying.

But the wily Haqqani also made it plain to the Pakistani army that, “We don’t want to coerce the TTP. They have waged jihad with us against the Americans and made sacrifices. It would be better that Pakistan and TTP come to terms, after giving each other some concessions.” 

The Pakistani Taliban or TTP has for years used Afghanistan’s rugged border regions for hideouts and for staging cross-border attacks into Pakistan and has now been emboldened by the return to power of the Afghan Taliban. The group wants Pakistani government forces to pull out of former tribal regions of the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, release all the TTP fighters in government custody, and revoke all the legal cases against them.

Pakistani experts say that FATA was merged into KP through a constitutional amendment, and the old status of the region can be restored constitutionally. “This step is not impossible, but it requires a two-third majority in the National Assembly as well as the KP Assembly.  The TTP wants reversal of the merger because they want full control of a region where Pakistan’s constitution does not apply. If this demand is accepted, it would be tantamount to surrendering a part of Pakistan to the Taliban, “said Anees Gilani, a Pakistani Supreme Court lawyer. 

Though Pakistan's foreign office finally admitted that the military establishment is in talks with the proscribed militant outfit TTP, questions are being raised in Pakistan whether the civilian government headed by the Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif  was taken into confidence by the Pakistani army. 

“One wonders if the PM Shehbaz and the foreign minister Bilawal Zardari Bhutto have any clue as to who has authorized, put together and ferried a jirga — including a federal minister — in a military aircraft to negotiate with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, on Afghan soil,” tweeted Mohammad Taqi, a Pakistani expert. 

Many supporters of the TTP have been sharing videos of the group’s chief Noor Wali Mehsud moving freely in a convoy in Pakistan’s Waziristan region like a victorious leader claiming that the  TTP has forced the Pakistani army for negotiations.

The TTP and the Pakistani army has agreed for three months ceasefire and they would not launch a major attack at each other in this period. Nevertheless, Pak watchers say that,  “The so-called ceasefire  will not last very long. It's a ploy by the TTP to recruit new fighters, re-group and plan new attacks. They want their own emirate in tribal areas. Expect attacks to resume between 4-6 weeks.”

Also Read : Pakistan Taliban stay firm on demand for separate tribal area at Kabul meeting held to broker peace