Pakistan wants TTP to surrender for talks


ISLAMABAD: Pakistan has told the interim Afghan government that it could only consider talking to the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) if the terrorist outfit surrenders and lays down arms, official sources privy to the development told The Express Tribune on Sunday.

Pakistan is no longer seeking talks with the TTP under the present circumstances. But despite Pakistan’s refusal to enter into peace talks with the militant group, the Afghan Taliban are still keen on dialogue.

When Afghan Interim Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi visited Islamabad last month, he once again proposed talks between Pakistan and the TTP.

“We are no longer seeking talks with the TTP. The possibility of talks can only be explored if TTP surrenders and lays down arms,” said a reliable source.

“Our offer is unambiguous: take it or leave it,” the source added.

Pakistan entered into talks with the TTP after the Afghan Taliban takeover in August 2021. Islamabad joined the process reluctantly as the Afghan Taliban were not ready to use force against the TTP.

The Afghan Taliban-brokered talks did make progress initially as the TTP agreed to a ceasefire in return for Pakistan freeing certain militants.

Pakistan also allowed hundreds of TTP fighters to return as part of confidence-building measures. But the move quickly backfired as the returning militants used that opportunity to regroup and start attacking the security forces.

With the change of army command in November last year, Pakistan began to realise the policy to seek peace deal was a mistake.

This was acknowledged by the country’s civil and military leadership during a high-powered National Security Committee meeting that talking to the TTP and allowing their militants to return was a thoughtless policy.

Since then Pakistan is adamant that it is no longer seeking talks with the TTP. Instead, it has been urging the Afghan Taliban to tackle the TTP threat.

The interim government in Kabul, however, is still hoping for reviving the dialogue. Given that the Afghan Taliban and TTP worked closely during the US-led foreign occupation of Afghanistan, Kabul would never take the TTP head-on. “They are ideological cousins,” remarked another source.

In order to find a middle ground, the Afghan Taliban have also proposed the relocation of TTP fighters from Pakistan’s border areas. But the modalities of that plan have yet to be worked out. The Afghan Taliban have asked Pakistan to bear the cost of the proposed plan.

The TTP issue has emerged as a major irritant between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban. China is believed to have been trying to find a “workable solution” between Pakistan and the Afghan Taliban on TTP.

But despite Pakistan’s concerns about TTP, Islamabad continues to seek engagement with the Afghan