This report from The Express Tribune on the Pakistani government opening negotiations with the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is the first I’ve seen in the press. I’ve heard rumors of this from US military and non-military intelligence officials, and it does seem to fit with other related news reports.
Pakistan has started peace talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), and other militant groups across the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata), in anticipation of early withdrawal of Nato troops from Afghanistan, informed sources told The Express Tribune.
The move is a critical step in transition to full Afghan control by the end of 2014, announced by US President Obama at a Nato summit in Lisbon last year.
The initial talks were opened up with the TTP, and its affiliated militants, prior to the recent wave of terrorist attacks across Pakistan, sources said.
“Both sides, at the moment, are putting up their respective demands and their terms and conditions to bring an end to militancy in Fata and other regions of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa,” sources added.
The authorities, however, have made it clear to the TTP and others that no role of al Qaeda is to be accepted at any level in these negotiations, sources said, adding that “some tribal elders from Pakistani territory are mediating between security high-ups and leaders of the TTP and other militant outfits.”
The report goes on to note that the Pakistani government has stopped supporting the anti-Taliban tribal lashkars (militias), and this fits with what we’ve seen from the Matani lashkar, which was recently hit with a devastating suicide attack.
Also, note the government’s reaction to the March 17 Predator strike in Datta Khel in North Waziristan. The condemnation of the strike and the refusal to recognize that Taliban fighters and a commander were killed may have been designed to lash out at the US and soothe the Pakistani street, but the government’s reaction may also be a signal to the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan that it is prepared to reconcile.
The Pakistani military and government have a long history of cutting peace deals with the Taliban. Several are in effect right now, most notably the deals with Hafiz Gul Bahadar in North Waziristan and Mullah Nazir in South Waziristan. Prior deals, such as the one with Mullah Fazlullah and Sufi Mohammed in Swat, led to the Taliban advancing to within 60 miles of Islamabad. Each “peace deal” included a promise by the local Taliban and tribes to not shelter foreign terror groups. And each time, the tribes and the Taliban blatantly ignored the provision.
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