Army assures govt of ‘full support’ on Taliban talks

* Nawaz holds consultation on formation of new committee * Will announce names of peace negotiators after consultation with army
Army assures govt of ‘full  support’ on Taliban talks

ISLAMABAD: The army on Tuesday assured the government its full support on the talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
This assurance was held out in a meeting that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif chaired to review national security. According to sources, the dialogue process with the Taliban was discussed during the meeting. The military leadership provided assurance that the decisions of the government would be implemented. The meeting was attended by Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and ISI DG Lt General Zaheerul Islam. Earlier, the prime minister held a one-on-one meeting with the army chief. General Sharif and Nisar Ali Khan briefed the prime minister during the meeting. 
Meanwhile, well-placed sources have said that the army will not participate directly in the talks with the Taliban but remain a part of the process indirectly. There will be no representative of the army in the committee which is to be constituted to hold direct talks with the Taliban. However, it has been agreed that a high-ranking army officer will remain in contact with the negotiations team. The new negotiations team of the government is likely to be formulated soon. 
However, the sources said that it is not necessary that the names of all the persons in the committee or its members are made public. It is likely that some of them will work behind the scene. Sources said that the army would extend every possible cooperation to make the negotiations a success. But only the government will have to take forward this entire process and spearhead it. 
Sources have said that the role of the military officer who will forge liaison with the negotiating team will be vital. This office will serve as a bridge between the two sides. The upcoming peace talks are likely to take place secretly because the talks process, which was initiated through back channel with the Taliban in the past for announcing a ceasefire, had proved productive. The government functionaries are of the firm opinion that this modus operandi will prove fruitful in the future as well.
Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Shaukat Yousafzai on Tuesday reiterated his stance regarding establishment of an office for the Taliban in the province. He said this while talking to media in Peshawar. Yousafzai’s statement came minutes after State Minister of Interior Balighur Rehman said that TTP is a banned terrorist outfit and will not be allowed to open its offices in the country.
Yousafzai said that the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will support each and every step taken by the federal government to establish peace in the country. He demanded both the government and the Taliban show seriousness for making the dialogue process successful. Yousafzai said that he still stands by his statement regarding an offer to the Taliban to open an office in any part of the province. A day earlier on Monday, the Minster had said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was prepared to facilitate the establishment of a Taliban office in Peshawar.
Balighur Rehman told the Senate on Tuesday that neither any such proposal is under consideration nor a formal request in this regard has been received. 
TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid said on Tuesday that the group is observing a complete ceasefire on its part and has not demanded opening of its office anywhere in Pakistan. According to a private TV channel Shahid said that the negotiating committees of the government and the Taliban are in contact for pushing the peace talks to a logical end. Denying reports, he said that TTP has not demanded opening of an office in Pakistan. Meanwhile, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said on Tuesday that the whole nation will be ready to fight if dialogue with the Taliban failed.

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