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SCMP: Pakistan seeks Taliban help to start talks with TTP

Haqqanis tried to strike similar deal in 2020, says newspaper

SAMAA | - Posted: Sep 22, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 weeks ago
Posted: Sep 22, 2021 | Last Updated: 4 weeks ago

Photo: AFP

The Taliban regime in Kabul is trying to initiate talks between Pakistan and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after Islamabad offered conditional amnesty for surrendering militants, the South China Morning Post (SCMP) has claimed.

Although there is little hope for a peace deal with the TTP, Pakistan is expecting that the Taliban involvement would help contain the potential threat posed by as many as 5,000 fighters taking refuge inside Afghanistan, the newspaper said on Wednesday.

Even three months before the Taliban occupied Kabul, the TTP ramped up its attacks against Pakistani troops along the border with Afghanistan.

SCMP described the TTP as ”the group accused of bombing Chinese dam workers” near the Dasu hydropower project in the Kohistan region. The July 14 attack had killed 10 Chinese nationals and four Pakistanis. Work on the project still remains suspended.

Since August 15, the TTP claimed responsibility for more than 70 terror attacks inside Pakistan.

England on Monday cancelled plans for a series of matches in Pakistan in October, citing the same security concerns as New Zealand. A day before New Zealand abandoned its tour to Pakistan, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi offered pardon to the TTP, if Afghanistan’s Taliban were able to persuade them to cease mounting attacks.

“If they are willing to mend fences and not take the law into their hands and not get involved in terrorist activities and they submit and surrender to the writ of the government and the Constitution of Pakistan, we are even open to giving them a pardon,” said Qureshi, in an interview with Independent Urdu on September 16.

Similarly, President Arif Alvi told Dawn News TV on September 11 that a general amnesty could be offered to the TTP.

According to a report appearing in South China Morning Post, Pakistan’s offer of an amnesty for surrendering insurgents followed backchannel negotiations with the TTP.

Abdul Basit, an associate research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, told SCMP: “These are statements of intent by the Pakistani government at the highest level to underscore its willingness to start formal negotiations.”

Basit said that the Haqqani Network had secretly tried to facilitate talks between Islamabad and the TTP back in 2020.

He said that the negotiations failed because the TTP insisted on the imposition of an Islamic Sharia-based government system in Pakistan’s northwest tribal districts.

The TTP had fled to Afghanistan in 2014-15 in an attempt to evade military operations in those areas.

On September 17, a TTP spokesman had dismissed Pakistan’s amnesty offer, but he did not outrightly reject talks with Islamabad.

“We believe in meaningful dialogue if it ensures implementation of sharia in Pakistan,” TTP spokesman Mohammad Khurasani said.

Rather than a genuine push for a negotiated settlement, however, both sides were looking to leverage talks to their advantage, analysts said.

Amira Jadoon, an assistant professor at the US Military Academy, West Point, in New York, told the SCMP: “I don’t think the TTP is really interested in peace, given its recent behaviour such as its mergers with other groups and uptick in attacks.”

In a couple of recent interviews, TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud sought to restyle his terrorist group as a nationalist Islamist movement on the pattern of the Afghan Taliban and claimed it was now at war solely with Pakistan.

TTP’s Noor Wali Mehsud said they were not involved in attacks against Chinese nationals

south china morning post

On Monday (September 20), Mehsud told Japanese newspaper The Mainichi  that the TTP was not involved in terrorist attacks against Chinese nationals in Pakistan, insisting: “There is no hostility between the TTP and China.”

But at the same time, he warned Beijing not to get involved in its fight with Islamabad.

Also on Monday, ISPR spokesman Major-General Baber Iftikhar said Islamabad was confident that the Taliban would keep their promise, despite repeated incidents of Pakistani border posts targeted by TTP snipers from Afghanistan.

“We have no reason to doubt their intentions, and that is why we are in constant touch with them to protect our national interest,” he said, in an interview with Riyadh-based Urdu News

Jadoon said that the Taliban would “try to sway the TTP in favour of negotiating some sort of peace deal.”

“But I honestly don’t think the Afghan Taliban will be willing to become too involved in this matter, especially now that they have to secure their political control within Afghanistan,” she said.

“Under no condition will the Taliban use force against the TTP unless it challenges its ideological supremacy in Afghanistan,” said Singapore-based analyst Basit.

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