Pakistani Taliban signal willingness to conduct peace talks

Two top leaders in the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan have recently indicated that the group is willing to conduct peace talks with the Pakistani government.

Waliur Rehman Mehsud, who serves as the head of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s branch in South Waziristan and the deputy to Hakeemullah Mehsud, and Faqir Mohammed, the group’s leader in Bajaur, have told the Pakistani press that the terror group is open to direct talks with the Pakistani government. Two years ago, the Pakistani government placed bounties for the capture of both Taliban leaders.

Waliur Rehman said that the leadership council of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is willing to consider talks with the government but would like a country such as Saudi Arabia, which he said the Taliban could “trust,” to broker the deal.

“We will see,” he told The Express Tribune. “Our shura (council) will decide whether and when can we enter into talks with the government, with the military…but I think we will like to involve countries we trust…they are in the Arab world. Let’s say Saudi Arabia.”

“Till now, we don’t have any direct peace offer…our shura will sit down when we are approached,” he continued. “That is how we operate. There is one centralized body to take important decisions.”

Waliur Rehman’s statement follows a similar statement made a week ago, in which Faqir Mohammed signaled that the Taliban was considering peace talks in response Prime Minister Yousef Gilani’s offer of a peace agreement with the Pakistani Taliban.

“The TTP [Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan] welcomes the prime minister’s offer,” Faqir told The Express Tribune on Oct. 3. “We want direct talks with the government and not through intermediaries.”

Faqir insisted that the Pakistani government must end its relationship with the US and implement “an Islamic state” in order for a peace agreement to take hold.

“We have always had serious doubts about Pakistan-US relations,” Faqir told the newspaper. “The United States has never been sincere to Pakistan or Muslims in general.”

“We will continue to fight till the establishment of an Islamic state,” he continued. “But if our demands are met and an Islamic justice system is established in Pakistan, which is our country, we will lay down our weapons because we are peace-loving people.”

The Pakistani Taliban’s overtures for peace talks appear to be encouraged by the Haqqani Network, according to The News. Khalil Haqqani, the brother of Jalaluddin Haqqani, the patriarch of the family, has reached out to elements of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and urged them to make peace with the government. Khalil is on the US’s list of specially designated global terrorists. Although the Pakistani government is said to have arrested Khalil last year, US officials have told The Long War Journal that Khalil was only in protective custody.

The Haqqanis, who are closely tied to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, are known to mediate disputes between various terror groups in the region.

Over the past several years, the Pakistani government and the military have cut numerous peace deals with the Taliban, only to have them collapse. The peace agreements, which have been struck throughout the tribal areas and in Swat and other settled districts in the northwest, required the Taliban to accept the writ of the state and eject “foreigners,” or al Qaeda and allied groups, from their areas. But the Taliban have refused to abide by the agreements, and instead have established mini-Islamic emirates while continuing to expand their control into neighboring areas.

Peace agreements are still in effect in South Waziristan in areas controlled by Mullah Nazir, and in North Waziristan with Hafiz Gul Bahadar; both Nazir and Bahadar are considered “pro-government Taliban” by the Pakistani military and government as they do not advocate attacks against the state. Yet these two commanders continue to shelter al Qaeda and other terror groups, and conduct attacks inside Afghanistan.

The statements by Waliur Rehman and Faqir occur as relations between US and Pakistan have reached a nadir. Factors contributing to the deterioration in relations include the increase in US drone strikes over the past several years against Pakistan-based terrorists, last winter’s Raymond Davis affair in which a CIA contractor was freed after killing two Pakistanis, and the May 2 raid by special operations forces in Abbottabad that killed Osama bin Laden. And more recently, US officials have accused Pakistan of supporting and directing attacks in Afghanistan by the Haqqani Network and the Taliban.

Striking a peace agreement with the Pakistani government would allow the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan to increase its efforts against NATO and Afghan forces across the border. The Taliban have been raiding Pakistani border towns in the northwest; one such raid took place today in Upper Dir.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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11 Comments

  • Paul D says:

    All Islamists in Pakistan look up to their ideal Muslim country Saudi Arabia!

  • bard207 says:

    I don’t understand the Logic of the Pakistani government – leadership negotiating with the TTP.
    Many times in the past, it was alleged that the TTP was directed and funded by the mysterious Foreign Hand (Mossad, RAW and CIA).
    Since Pakistan wants to participate in negotiations in regards to a settlement in Afghanistan, does that mean that the Foreign Hand (Mossad, RAW and CIA) will be participating at the negotiating table with the TTP and the Pakistani government – leadership?

  • Joe says:

    Very little reason not to make a deal when you have no one making sure that you carry out your end of it.

  • Colin says:

    Let me guess, they will come to the table only if the drone strikes are called off, after which they will talk for awhile and then say the talks are off.

  • thetareens says:

    TTP was started by Abdullah mehsud just after his release from gitmo, he came back to Pakistan with millions of $, their first act in PK was killing Chineese engineers working on welfare projects. It started recruting paid millitants in thousands and started a campaign against PK security forces, who do you think could have supplied him with millions to start with? who dislikes PK China relations? who benifits from trouble in PK? who is in race for more control in afghanistan? think about it you will understand.

  • Peter says:

    Reply to thetareens: You ask ” who dislikes PK China relations? who benifits from trouble in PK?”
    Do you mind naming that country or regime?

  • bard207 says:

    thetareens,
    TTP was started by Abdullah mehsud just after his release from gitmo, he came back to Pakistan with millions of $, their first act in PK was killing Chineese engineers working on welfare projects. It started recruting paid millitants in thousands and started a campaign against PK security forces, who do you think could have supplied him with millions to start with? who dislikes PK China relations? who benifits from trouble in PK? who is in race for more control in afghanistan? think about it you will understand.
    —————————————————–
    TTP was started by Abdullah mehsud just after his release from gitmo, he came back to Pakistan with millions of $
    Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan
    In December 2007 about 13 groups united under the leadership of Baitullah Mehsud to form the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Among the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s stated objectives are resistance against the Pakistani state, enforcement of their interpretation of sharia and a plan to unite against NATO-led forces in Afghanistan
    —————————————————–
    Even though Baitullah Mehsud is credited with being the founder of TTP, Nek Muhammad Wazir was already known for being the leader of tribal forces in conflict with Pakistan before Baitullah Mehsud formed the TTP.
    Nek Muhammad Wazir
    Some members of this group were also recruited into Jundullah, a militant anti-government organization. Jundullah members Attaur Rehman and Abu Musab al-Balochi (al-Baloshi) would later be implicated in the attempted assassination of a senior military official in Karachi. Jundullah’s media studio, Ummat, was allegedly connected with Al-Qaeda’s media front organization, the Al-Sahab Foundation, and Jundullah itself with Al-Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Ummat also produced anti-Western and anti-government videos.
    In April 2004, Muhammed, as leader of anti-government militant forces in South Waziristan fighting in the “Waziristan War”, accepted an offer of a cease-fire and amnesty with Pakistani forces. The ceasefire lasted only briefly before conflict resumed, however.
    ——————————————————
    their first act in PK was killing Chineese engineers working on welfare projects.
    A consruction projection for a dam.
    —————————————————
    It started recruting paid millitants in thousands and started a campaign against PK security forces, who do you think could have supplied him with millions to start with?
    Sometimes Pakistan has ranted about the TTP and sometimes Pakistan has
    loved the TTP.
    Army official calls Baitullah Mehsud, Fazlullah

  • ER says:

    doesn’t make sense, I’m not buying this story

  • Tom Kelleher says:

    ‘Pakistani Taliban signal willingness to conduct peace talks’
    Translation: ‘We’d like to hug someone, and then blow them up’.
    I’m pretty sure we’ve played this game before…

  • fawad says:

    In present day scenario if we want to tackle the mess of terrorism both Pakistan and America should align each other to increase power over terrorist. Its important for both the countries to talk with one voice which reflects the wishes and interest of People of Afghanistan and Tribal region of Pakistan.
    The power is the key to disconnect tribal people from clutches of Taliban – to seek security from powerful entity in the region and to seek moral reasons to fight these sick-head mullahs out of their country.
    Pakistan need America to make a powerful entity in the region and America need Pakistan to give just reason to people to get rid of this Mullahs once and for all, and get their country back to live life in peace.
    We all must realize that Mullah Ideology is not rooted in Pakistan nor in Tribal region of Pakistan. It is send to this country for exchange of Saudi Riyals and Dollars, people at heart does not like these Taliban and do not want these Taliban to rule our country – example of this is 99% of Pakistani are without beard which is a must be requirement of Taliban (and it is a self act which no one stop you to do)
    In the ever changing time we got very little opportunity to make things right in this part of the world

  • thetareens says:

    @bard207
    “I understand this topic far better than you do.”
    maybe you think u do, i live in NWFP/ KPK, what i know i doubt you can learn that from wikipedia.
    Lal Masjid is entirely a different incident, don’t confuse it with Abdullah or Baitullah. i understand you are getting your facts from News but everything in news is not always as it is on ground.
    China & PK are close both understand whats happening over here, who is playing who and for what purpose.
    just search Abdullah Mehsud in google and read it , he started long before Baitullah.
    “Army official calls Baitullah Mehsud, Fazlullah

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