ISLAMABAD: A safe and neutral venue for the government-Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) direct talks is still a major bone of contention, as the committees representing the two sides contemplate meeting possibly tomorrow (Friday).
The TTP has been unwilling to hold the dialogue at the government-proposed Bannu airport and had demanded formation of a “free zone”, which should not be guarded by military or paramilitary troops. But the government committee was reportedly not ready for such a free zone, citing security concerns and fears that such a zone might be infested by militants. The TTP Shura had pinpointed Laddah and Makeen areas of South Waziristan as the possible free zone for direct talks with the government, sources added.
“Discussions are underway to finalise a location for direct talks between TTP and the government committee,” head of the TTP negotiating committee, Maulana Samiul Haq, told media in Islamabad on Wednesday. “There is no deadlock in the dialogue process,” he asserted. Maulana Samiul Haq said the government committee did not want to visit Waziristan for talks, while the Taliban did not want to hold dialogue inside government buildings.
A key member of the Taliban negotiating committee, Professor Ibrahim, meanwhile added a contradicting dimension to the venue issue, stating that the TTP Shura had recently conveyed they were not prepared to hold talks in North Waziristan. “There is an agreement between Commander Gul Bahadur and the government in North Waziristan; therefore, Taliban Shura is reluctant in meeting with the government team in NWA,” Ibrahim said.
He wished for a permanent ceasefire between the Taliban and the government. Professor Ibrahim told Daily Times that the government committee should move the dialogue process forward without delay, at a mutually agreed place. A meeting between the TTP and the new government negotiating committee is expected soon after a decision on the mutually agreed place, he added. Professor Ibrahim said the dialogue process would not stop even if the Taliban’s demands of army’s removal from two districts of South Waziristan and the release of non-combatant prisoners were not met.
The newly formed government committee, meanwhile, held a meeting with Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan to move ahead with the peace process on fast track. The government committee is being led by Federal Secretary Habibullah Khan Khattak, and includes Additional Secretary to PM, Fawad Hassan Fawad, PTI representative Rustam Shah Mohmand and FATA Additional Secretary Arbab Arif. .
Government sources said the meeting decided that the TTP-named negotiators would be provided all possible facilities to fly to a mutually decide place on Thursday or Friday to finalise the nitty-gritty of the talks, and once the venue is finalised the government committee would go there to hold direct talks with TTP. Sources said it was decided in a meeting that those splinters militants groups who are not interested in talks and constantly work to shatter the peace talks will be sorted out soon. The government team will discuss their destiny during direct talks with the TTP negotiators.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Tuesday that the political and military leadership has held a detailed discussion on the Internal Security Policy. Talking to newsmen after a meeting on the country’s internal security, which was chaired by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the minister said the leadership was informed about the dialogue with the TTP and the participants expressed their confidence in the process. He said that the political and military leadership are on the same page on issues of national security. The interior minister said that the Internal Security Policy would be implemented according to the set timelines. The meeting was attended by the four chief ministers, COAS General Raheel Sharif and ISI DG Lt Gen Zahirul Islam among others.
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