PESHAWAR: The Taliban negotiators said on Friday the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership was ready to hold direct talks with the government and condemned Friday’s terrorist attacks in Quetta and Peshawar, calling them a conspiracy to derail the peace process, media reports said.
At least 19 people were killed and more than 80 others injured in two separate incidents of terrorism in the capitals of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa earlier Friday. An increasingly active Taliban splinter group Ahrarul Hind or “Liberators of India” – a name referring to the whole of the subcontinent – claimed responsibility for the attacks. “We claim both Peshawar and Quetta attacks,” their chief, Umar Qasmi, told Reuters. “We don’t abide by these talks and will continue to stage attacks.”
The leadership of the Pakistani Taliban immediately distanced itself from the Friday attacks. “The TTP strongly condemns the Peshawar and Quetta blasts,” said TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid. “We have no connection to these attacks because we are observing a ceasefire.” Following a meeting of two members of the Taliban’s negotiating committee with Taliban Shura, Maulana Samiul Haq, head of the committee nominated by the TTP, expressed hope for full restoration of peace in the country.
The meeting took place in Miramshah, the main town of troubled North Waziristan tribal agency bordering Afghanistan. It was attended by Sheikh Khalid Haqqani, Qari Shakeel, Azam Tariq, Shahidullah Shahid, Sajid Mohmand and Ahsanullah Ahsan. Maulana Yousuf Shah and Professor Ibrahim represented Taliban committee. It was decided to hold the direct talks in Azad Mandi area of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Bannu district. However, the Taliban leadership apprised their nominated negotiators of their reservations.
Responding to Maulana Samiul Haq’s request of further extending the month-long ceasefire, Taliban leaders told the negotiators that a final decision in this regard would be made after a formal meeting of the Shura in coming days. Speaking to media representatives in Akora Khattak, Haq said both members of the Taliban talks committee came back satisfied after the meeting. “The meeting (direct talks) is expected in a couple of days with the newly formed government committee,” he said.
“We will facilitate the direct talks ... and results will be presented before parliament also.” The chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-S), who is also known as “Father of Taliban” in the West, said their first priority will be to get freed imprisoned children and women as demanded by the Taliban leadership. He showed optimism regarding positive outcome of the direct talks saying members of the new government committee are experienced with regards to the tribal areas.
“Today’s incidents in Quetta and Peshawar are part of a conspiracy being hatched to derail the peace process,” said the JUI-S chief. He said surgical operations conducted by the country’s armed forces had failed to obtain desired results in the past and only ended up in spreading havoc in the tribal areas. The TTP’s position has spurred speculation that the central command is not fully in control of the many splinter groups operating under it, and reaching a peace deal with one of them would not stop the violence.
Ahrarul Hind, which splintered from the Pakistani Taliban just a month ago, had previously claimed responsibility for an attack in central Islamabad earlier this month when suicide bombers and gunmen killed 11 people including an additional district and sessions judge. Pakistani investigators believe that Qasmi, the leader of the group, is capable of drawing support from other militant outfits, including several linked to al Qaeda that have wreaked bloody havoc in the country over the last decade.
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