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Pak military halts air strikes after TTP announce month-long ceasefire

Crescent International

Are they really serious about peace talks or simply going through the motions is a question many observers have asked about the Pakistan government and Taliban talks that remain suspended. Even when they were conducted, they were held indirectly. Can there be hope for a peaceful resolution to this decade-long crisis?

Islamabad, Crescent-online
Tuesday March 04, 2014, 20:04 EST

In response to the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announcing a month-long ceasefire, the Pakistani government announced a halt to air strikes in North Waziristan that had gone on for several days.

The government announcement on Sunday March 02 came within 24 hours of the Taliban’s ceasefire call.

“After a positive announcement by Taliban, the government has decided to suspend air strikes that have been continuing for a few days,” Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in an official statement issued on Sunday after his meeting with Army Chief General Raheel Sharif.

“However, the government and the armed forces reserve the right to appropriately respond to any terrorist act,” the minister said.

According to information from pro-Taliban sources, they had set two conditions for the ceasefire. First, they demanded the release of all elders, women and children in government custody and, second a demilitarized safe zone for direct negotiations.

Maulana Samiul Haq, a member of the Committee nominated by the Taliban, said on Monday (March 03) that he had received a list of prisoners from the Taliban that he would hand over to the government appointed committee.

The committee met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar in Islamabad today and discussed the progress in talks so far. Sharif was quoted as saying that he would like to continue the talks, according to media reports after he met the committee members.

Major (retired) Amir had earlier said Prime Minister Sharif should now disband this committee since it had done its job. It should constitute a new committee comprising the interior minister, chief minister and governor of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province as well as a senior representative of the army to conduct direct negotiations with the Taliban.

This might explain the Taliban’s demand for a demilitarized zone to hold direct talks. At the same time, Maulana Samiul Haq said that every terrorist attack should not be automatically attributed to the Taliban. He warned against external powers trying to disrupt a peaceful resolution to the decades-long problem in Pakistan.

Talks had started early last month but were suspended following the February 17 killing of 23 Frontier Constabulary personnel by the Taliban they had held since 2011.

The Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the government had been killing its members in custody even while claiming to be interested in peace talks. He said the FC personnel were killed in retaliation for those killings.

Such killings obviously poisoned the atmosphere for talks. While there is a new impetus to resume talks, some observers in Pakistan believe that neither side is sincere in holding talks and are simply going through the motions.

The two committees had not met since the February 17 suspension. Each side made statements to the media to outline their respective positions.


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