Afghan Taliban mediate talks between the TTP and Pakistani tribal elders
alks between the government of Pakistan and the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have a long and checkered history. Historically, these talks have seldom had a positive outcome. This time, it is hoped that the negotiations will succeed.
Afghan Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani is playing a vital role in the talks. Forty-two tribal elders from various parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have visited Afghanistan for the negotiations. A majority of these elders were from Waziristan. The delegation met TTP leaders in Paktika. Later on, the parties also met in Kabul.
After the Kabul meeting, the TTP made an announcement extending the ceasefire until May 30. The government’s key demand is that the TTP members should lay down arms and surrender to the state of Pakistan. Though there has been no clarity regarding the TTP’s demands, they are likely to have demanded release of some prisoners.
The enforcement of shariah and termination of cases against their associates have also been mentioned in the past. Sources close to the talks have said that more than 30 TTP fighters have been released. The sources say the militants were from various parts of Waziristan, Dera Ismail Khan and Malakand. However, militant sources say that no significant commander has been released. There have been claims on social media of the release of Muslim Khan and Mahmood Khan from Swat. However, this has not been officially verified. Another round of talks is scheduled for May 29-30.
According to security sources, a 130-member jirga will participate in the negotiations this time.
In addition to the recently merged tribal districts, some elders from Malakand division will also visit Afghanistan. In the past, only tribal elders used to be selected for negotiations with the TTP as well. In the fight against terrorism in Malakand and especially in Swat, many fighters and commanders from Malakand were also forced to take refuge in Afghanistan.
Mullah Fazlullah, alias Mullah Radio from Swat, fled to Afghanistan during a military operation and headed the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan while based in Afghanistan.
Now elders from Malakand have been asked to play their due role in engaging the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan commanders from Malakand.
An attempt is being made to resolve the issue through Malakand-style dialogue with the banned outfit. In 2009, the then Awami National Party-led provincial government had invited the leaders of Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Mohammadi (TNSM) to find a negotiated solution to the militancy.
The late Sufi Muhammad, the movement’s founder, was released from prison to help the process. For its efforts, the Awami National Party was opposed and condemned at home and abroad. However, the party continued to argue for non-violence. The provincial government was convinced that if the militants withdrew from the peace talks, they will lose public support.
Some militant commanders in Swat refused to obey Sufi Muhammad’s orders. The failure of the peace agreement paved the way for a successful military operation in Malakand.
If a settlement is not reached, this might provide the Afghan Taliban a justification for distancing themselves from the Pakistani Taliban, even take some action against them. As a result of these talks, it is hoped that a significant number of Pakistani Taliban will choose the path of peace. The militants who prefer to continue the war against their country will likely try to find new a platform or announce he formation of another organisation.
If negotiations are successful but some of the TTP factions refuse to accept the agreement, what will happen to them? The future course of action must be worked out with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban should be responsible for dealing with these factions. They should play their part in bringing peace in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Otherwise, if some factions continue to fight the problem will continue.
Terrorist attacks in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have continued despite the announcement of a ceasefire by the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan. Several police officers and an intelligence officer have been killed in these attacks. The Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) has claimed responsibility for some of these attacks. Recently, some unidentified people abducted Dr Zeeshan, who was on polio duty in Mir Ali tehsil of North Waziristan. So far, no militant group has claimed responsibility for his kidnapping.
The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) was formed in 2007. Before that, there were other militant organisations. Since then, various militant organisations and groups besides the TTP have been involved in attacks against security personnel and civilians. When Mullah Fazlullah from Swat became the head of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan, several commanders of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) left the organisation. One of them was Saeed Khan from Orakzai.
Along with other like-minded Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commanders, he pledged allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Thus the organisation for Iraq and Syria reached Afghanistan. The ISIS then announced the establishment of the IS-KP and Saeed Khan Orakzai was named its first governor. This organisation has recently gained strength in Afghanistan. During the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, the group carried out a major suicide bombing at Bagram Airbase. At the moment, the Afghan Taliban are facing strong resistance from this organisation. The government of Pakistani wants to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban to eliminate at least one of the threats. The Afghan Taliban also want the Pakistani Taliban to end the pressure on them and continue their operations against the IS-KP. The Afghan Taliban do not want to launch operations or impose sanctions against the Pakistani Taliban. They believe that alienating the Pakistani Taliban will drive them towards the IS-KP, which can cause problems for the Afghan regime.
Currently, the focus is on the dialogue between the Pakistani government and the Pakistani Taliban. Similar attempts in the past have failed on account of operations from either side.
The writer is a Peshawar-based journalist, researcher and trainer on conflict and peace development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org