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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Seeking a Pashtun homeland, Pakistan Taliban dominates new round of dialogue with desperate Islamabad

The Haqqani group, the power behind the throne in Afghanistan, has hosted talks between the Pakistani army and outlawed terror outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The dialogue between the two, after the TTP threatened to emerge as the vanguard of Pashtun nationalism, will continue as both parties have declared an indefinite ceasefire. Pashtun nationalism riles Pakistan as it threatens to sever parts of the Pashtun dominated Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan, and merge it with Afghanistan. The TTP is further showing signs of collaborating with Baloch nationalists, setting in force a perfect storm that assertively questions Pakistans existing territorial boundaries.

According to the Pakistani media, both sides have agreed that there would be no “major” counter-militancy operations by Pakistani security forces, nor would the TTP carry out attacks against them. Sources also confirmed that a large Loya Jirga is being convened in Kabul comprising 150 tribal leaders of the erstwhile FATA region, now part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These leaders are already in Kabul for the next round of talks hosted by the chief of the UN designated terror organisation and the interior minister of the Taliban regime, Sirajuddin Haqqani – the kingpin of the Haqqani network.

“The senior Pak military officers are fine tuning the peace agreement with the leadership of the TTP, the Pakistani army officers and the Taliban rulers in Kabul. Efforts are on to arrange face-to-face meetings between Pakistani officers and the chief of the TTP Mufti Noor Wali Mehsud,” wrote the Pakistani journalist Daud Khattak.

The first two rounds of talks were headed by the former ISI chief and core commander of Peshawar Corps, Lt General Faiz Hameed who has close links with the Haqqanis and top Taliban rulers. According to the TTP, as a confidence building measure, the Pakistani army released two key militant commanders, including TTP spokesman Muslim Khan last month.

As the talks progressed, one Pakistani army official told Voice of America (VoA) that Pakistan hailed the host Taliban government for making “utmost efforts” to ensure relevant TTP commanders were present at the table to productively carry the dialogue forward. He noted that acting Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani “is playing the key role” in mediating the talks.

“Compensation for the dead and wounded, enforcement of Shariah regulation in Malakand, withdrawal of military from the borders and reversal of Fata merger into Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were key demands from the TTP side”, Dawn reported quoting the sources.

Islamabad is asking the TTP negotiators to terminate their insurgency against Pakistan and dissolve the group in favour of a peaceful resettlement to their native country.

“Pakistani army has no issue with some of the TTP’s demands, but two major issues remained challenging: the reversal of Fata merger and the disbandment of the TTP as an armed militant group,” reported Dawn.

“Haqqani mediations have not led to a sustainable ceasefire but are a further indication of Mr. Sirajuddin’s central role within the Taliban as a mediator and figure of authority among rank-and-file of TTP and other mainly Pashtun groups in eastern Afghanistan,” said the UN annual report of the 1988 Taliban sanctions committee monitoring team.

The Pakistani watchers say that this is the third time the Pakistani army has initiated the peace talks with the banned TTP. The first two talks were thwarted by the TTP itself. Even twice bitten and deceived by the TTP, the Pakistani army has not learned any lesson.

(The story has been published via a syndicated feed.)

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