Amid reports that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Saturday formed a committee which includes Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chairperson Imran Khan for peace talks, Mr. Khan played it down by saying that the TTP should select their own Taliban representatives for the peace talks.
In a statement, he said the PTI had full faith in the four- member committee announced by the government. Mr. Khan said, “However we will discuss how PTI can be of further assistance to further the dialogue in our core committee meeting on Monday.” Apart from Mr. Khan, the five members named by TTP includes Jamiat Ulema Islam-Samiul Haq group (JUI-S) chief Maulana Samiul Haq, Jamiat Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Mufti Kifayatullah, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) provincial chief Professor Mohammad Ibrahim and the former cleric of Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz, news reports quoting the TTP said.
Mr. Irfan Siddiqui, special assistant to the Prime Minister and journalist, a member of the government -appointed committee on Sunday welcomed the move by the TTP to help establish peace and termed it a goodwill gesture.
Last week, the government seemed all set to announce a military operation against the Pakistan Taliban after a high level security review and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met the chief of army staff. On Wednesday when Mr. Sharif came to the National Assembly (NA) after many months, there was much expectation of a formal announcement. His 20-minute speech outlined the problems faced by Pakistan on the terror front but in the end he suddenly announced the government view that terrorists must be given another chance. He constituted a four-member committee to take the negotiations forward and said the government was making this peace offering since the other side had shown some interest in talks.
He made it clear that terrorism and talks cannot go together and said terror strikes must end. That was a day when a suicide bomber targeted the Rangers office in Karachi and bombs went off elsewhere. The attacks haven't stopped with a rocket attack reported on the Bannu Cantonment on Sunday. Mr. Siddiqui is tasked with briefing the media and coordinating with the Prime Minister. On Friday, an optimistic Mr. Siddiqui said that the TTP should inform them about their team so the process can start. While not setting a time frame he said it could be a matter of weeks not months and years.
There is much scepticism about the future of these talks as one attempt last year almost never took off in the real sense. There is also the question of a ceasefire and if the TTP will consent to this while the talks proceed if at all. It is significant that three out of four members of the committee were from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa(KP) and Mr.Rustom Shah Mohmand is the nominee of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government.
Mr. Mohmand, one of the members of the committee, told The Hindu on the phone that the success of the talks would depend on what kind of mandate the committee was given. It should have sufficient flexibility and the government would have to clarify on various issues and points of negotiation.
This time the government is not taking any chances with secret mediators. It has appointed a four-member committee with a former ISI operative in it; it has promised to keep the media informed and it has set no real preconditions for the talks as yet except for saying that terror strikes have to stop. Questions remain on what this committee and the TTP will talk about since in the past the terror outfit has refused to lay down arms, or abide by the Constitution and wants to bring the Sharia law all over Pakistan. The TTP's committee is already making noises about the enforcement of Sharia. That's a bridge the committee will cross when it comes to it, says Mr. Siddiqui. In the circumstances, that may be a bridge too far.