ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban Wednesday said they would not extend a ceasefire called to help peace negotiations with the government, but insisted they were still committed to the talks process.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced a one-month ceasefire at the start of March as the government sought a negotiated end to their bloody seven-year insurgency. The TTP extended the ceasefire to April 10, but complained there had been “complete silence” from the government since then and hinted that the military was trying to thwart talks. “TTP’s central shura (council) has unanimously agreed not to extend the ceasefire,” the group said in a statement.
“However, the talks process will continue with complete sincerity and seriousness, and whenever a clear development comes from the government side, the TTP will not hesitate to respond with a serious move.” Inside sources familiar with the developments told Daily Times that the decision to not extend the ceasefire was taken in a bid to win over the anti-dialogue camp of Taliban led by Sheheryar Mehsud which had been recently caught in a bloody feud with a pro-dialogue camp led by Khan Said Sajna, another Taliban leader of Mehsud origin.
The announcement comes three days after Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said the process was about to enter a “comprehensive” phase. The Taliban’s announcement prompted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to summon a high-level meeting on national security today (Thursday). In a single-page statement written in Urdu, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said that the decision of not extending the ceasefire was unanimously taken by political shura of the TTP, the umbrella organisation of several militant groups. The statement was issued after conclusion of a three-day meeting of Taliban shura at an undisclosed location in North Waziristan.
“The TTP started talks with the government with sincerity and took all steps necessary for making the dialogue process successful, but the government failed to fulfil even its just and basic demands,” the TTP spokesman said. “Leave alone the creation of peace zone facility and release of non-combatant prisoners, the government did not even bother to stop military operations against the Taliban, which indicate that the government is spineless and the real power comes from somewhere else,” the statement said.
Shahid said that despite strong opposition among Taliban leaders, the TTP had succeeded in convincing its members to give a “gift” of a month-long ceasefire to the nation and the truce was extended for another 10 days. “The demands to halt military offensives against Taliban and release of their non-combatant prisoners were good enough for creating a positive environment for peace talks, but the government fell short of even considering it,” Shahid said.
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