Friday Oct 01, 2021
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is in disarmament talks with some factions of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Prime Minister Imran Khan has said, as the government seeks stability in the country in the backdrop of a fast evolving situation in Afghanistan.
PM Imran Khan, speaking to TRT World’s Ali Mustafa in Islamabad, said: "I think some of the Pakistani Taliban groups actually want to talk to our government. You know, for some peace, for some reconciliation."
When asked to confirm whether Pakistan is actually in talks with the TTP, the premier clarified to say that talks are ongoing "with some of them".
He said that the Afghan Taliban are "helping", in the sense that the talks are taking place in Afghanistan.
The premier said that these talks, for disarmament, if successful, will lead to the government "forgiving" them, "and then they [will] become normal citizens".
Stressing that he does expect for some sort of deal to emerge with the TTP, he said: "I do not believe in military solutions. I am anti-military solutions. So I always believe that you know, as a politician, political dialogue is the way forward, which I always believed was the case in Afghanistan with the US."
The premier noted he always believed that a non-military solution was the only way forward for Afghanistan — and he has reiterated it time and again on national, international forums.
The government's announcement was met with stiff resistance and outrage by the Opposition.
In response to the prime minister's comments, PPP has called for a parliament session on the matter, saying that the premier's statement was "extremely sensitive".
PPP General-Secretary Nayyar Hussain Bukhari, in a statement, said the prime minister's statement was tantamount to "rubbing salt in the wounds" of terrorism affectees.
The PPP leader noted the government had bypassed the parliament with regard to initiating talks with the banned outfit. "A parliament session should be called, and the [members] taken into confidence."
"Through such steps, [such as granting the TTP clemency], the government will malign Pakistan globally," he said.
PPP's Sherry Rehman was incredulous at the idea of granting the TTP amnesty. "Has he asked parliament what we think about that? And has he heard the TTP response" she asked.
Former foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that talks only ever prove successful when both parties are in agreement.
She said that a few days ago, when the foreign minister spoke of Pakistan willing to grant clemency, the other side responded by saying that it is he who asks for forgiveness who has committed wrongdoing.
Khar said that there are very few countries where the army conducts operations within its own territory, and Pakistan was forced to arrive at this juncture because such banned outfits left it with no choice.
Khar regretted the prime minister not taking the nation into confidence.
"The prime minister said in his interview that as a politician, he believes in holding dialogue," she noted.
She asked why talks are not being held in Pakistan and why there was no mention of this in parliament.
"Is the nation ready to forget the APS attack?" she asked further.
Khar went on to ask if "talks" were held with the parents of the APS attack victims, and whether they were asked if they are ready to "forgive".
"How did you take ownership for the act of clemency?" she asked the government.
The PPP leader said that while reconciliation is a good step to take, such moves begin at home, in the parliament, rather than in an interview to a foreign outlet.
"Even if talks were proceeding smoothly, the interview will only serve to spoil them; no benefit will come from these statements," she said.
Reacting to PM Imran Khan’s comments, PML-N's Khwaja Asif said that he “should have taken the nation into confidence over this matter”, given the bloodshed Pakistan has witnessed at the hands of terrorists.
He said that soldiers of Pakistan Army were martyred in the war against terrorism and Army Public School students were massacred.
"These facts cannot be simply be whitewashed," Asif said.
The PML-N leader asked if it is too much to ask for all parties to take joint ownership and run the country together.
He noted that instead, the parties are at perpetual war with one another and "cannot even stand the mention of each other's names".
Asif said that if Pakistan gets its internal affairs in order, and political parties learn to work with one another, then the country is "no need of anyone".
However, this isn't the first time Pakistan has indicated a softening in its stance towards the banned outfit.
In September, speaking to Geo News, Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the interim Afghan government had declared an end to the war, and thus, the TTP should review its policies. "Our issue with TTP is that they targeted innocent, unarmed citizens."
The TTP should think about its future, keeping in mind its past actions, Qureshi had said, adding: "If the TTP responds in a positive manner, so will Pakistan."
"But if they respond negatively, we will deal with them as we have before."
The foreign minister had said Pakistan had time and again informed the ousted Afghan president Ashraf Ghani about TTP's presence in Afghanistan and its involvement in terrorist activities, but his regime did not take action against them.
However, the incumbent government has provided assurances that Afghan soil would not be used against any country, including Pakistan, the foreign minister had noted.
Before the foreign minister, President Arif Alvi said the government could think of pardoning the TTP members who were not involved in "criminal activities", who would disarm themselves, and follow the law.
The president, during an interview on DawnNews programme "Khabar Se Khabar" aired on September 11, said Afghan Taliban's "second- or third-tier leadership" had informed Pakistan that the TTP members could live in Afghanistan, but "they must not do any activity against Pakistan."
In response to the government's decision of engaging with the TTP, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari took exception to the "unilateral decision" to offer "amnesty" to terrorist groups, terming it an "insult to the victims of terrorism".
The PPP chairman, in a Twitter post on September 17, said that the decision would encourage terrorist groups present in Pakistan.
“The unilateral decision to offer amnesty to terrorist groups within Pakistan is an insult to the thousands of victims of terrorism,” wrote Bilawal.
According to Bilawal, “Imran’s policy of appeasement to religious fascism within Pakistan as well as on our eastern and western borders will haunt us in [times] to come".