Political organization

Parliamentary body agrees to talks with terrorist organization

The military got the green light from the parliamentary National Security Committee on Tuesday for peace talks with the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after caving in to the Pakistan People’s Party’s demand that the process be overseen by a parliamentary committee.

“There was almost a consensus that the talks should go ahead unless National Democratic Movement leader Mohsin Dawar objects,” one of the meeting participants told the media.

The Prime Minister’s Office, in a statement on the meeting, said: “The Parliamentary Committee on National Security has formally endorsed the negotiation process and approved the formation of a ‘Parliamentary Oversight Committee’.”

The parliamentary blessing for the process, which had been largely exclusively led by the military in great secrecy, is seen as a major endorsement of contentious negotiations with the illegal group which is responsible for the loss of nearly 70,000 lives. in the country.

Lawmakers say talks are underway to ‘strengthen regional and internal peace’, ending conflict

Negotiations with the TTP began last October at the request of the Afghan Taliban, but broke down soon after. The process was secretly revived in April after the TTP launched a series of attacks on security forces and a ceasefire was finally reached. Currently, a three-month truce is observed, while the talks continue.

Lately, the negotiations have taken on a more public profile with the participation of tribal elders, some Pashtun politicians and clerics.

The lawmakers were told by military and intelligence officials that the talks with the TTP were aimed at “strengthening regional and domestic peace”. “This is an opportunity to end the conflict,” the political leaders were told.

The four-hour meeting, chaired by National Assembly Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, brought together the 27 members of the high-level parliamentary committee which includes the Prime Minister, House and Senate opposition leaders and parliamentary party leaders. In addition, members of the standing committees of the Senate and the National Assembly on defense had been invited.

There was also a long list of around 62 special guests, including JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Emir Jamaat-i-Islami Sirajul Haq, chief ministers of the four provinces and Gilgit-Baltistan, president and AJK Prime Minister, Special Envoy for Afghanistan and other key parliamentarians.

Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, ISI Director General General Nadeem Anjum and Peshawar Corps Commander Lt General Faiz Hamid who led the talks were also present at the occasion.

This meeting followed an earlier briefing by military leaders on the TTP talks for parliamentary leaders at the Prime Minister’s House on June 22.

The request for a parliamentary committee to monitor the talks was made by PPP Chairman and Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

The military leaders agreed that, in line with the commitment made to the leaders of the political parties at the last meeting, no extra-constitutional concessions would be granted to the TTP within the framework of the ongoing dialogue and that any agreement reached with the group would be subject to to parliamentary approval approval.

During the talks, the TTP demanded the withdrawal of security forces from former tribal areas, the reversal of the 2018 merger of tribal agencies with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the release of its fighters and compensation for damages suffered.

The Pakistani authorities are asking for the dissolution of the banned organization, the laying down of arms and respect for the Constitution.

The PCNS was informed that there could be no compromise on merging the former tribal areas, respecting the Constitution and disarming the group. These have been described as the “red lines” of the Pakistani government.

The impression was given to the House leaders that the TTP had softened its position on these three issues.

A general amnesty should be announced for TTP activists once an agreement is reached.

Political leaders were told that if agreed, up to 30,000 TTP activists and their family members would have to return to Pakistan.

Some members asked about the leverage the government has in the talks. They were told that it was above all economic.

When reminded of the failure of the 2008 and 2009 peace accords, military leaders said the option of kinetic action remains very much on the table in case militants backtrack after concluding the agreement.