ISLAMABAD - Although Taliban nominated peace committee hoped to finalise the venue for second direct contact between the government and Taliban shura in a couple of days but informed sources say that militants want release of some more non-combatant prisoners before the meeting.
When contacted, Taliban peace panel coordinator Yousuf Shah confirmed that contact with Taliban shura has been established and the rendezvous for next meeting will be finalised in a next couple of days. He however denied any pre-condition from Taliban side for the meeting.
The members of government peace panel were not available for comment but some sources in the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) government informed that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was determined to continue with the peace parleys and wanted to take the process to its logical conclusion.
These sources when asked about the release of more non-combatant prisoners before their next interaction with militants , said that the legal process for the release of 13 more non-combatant prisoners was almost complete and they could be released anytime. “They can be released before or just after the next meeting between the two sides.”
Some other sources informed The Nation that government was examining the recently released video of the scion of former premier Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani, showing Ali Mousa Gilani in a situation apparently suggesting he was not in the custody of TTP , though it could have been an effort by Taliban to defuse the expected pressure from government side for his release during the upcoming meeting.
Government sources said that release of people in the custody of militants would be on top of government team’s agenda and they would forcefully put the case of the release of these people, particularly the scions of former premier Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani and former Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer. To another question, they said in case Taliban shura would deny having Ali Gilani and Shabaz Taseer in their custody, the government team would seek their help in tracking and securing their release.
One of the members of Taliban peace panel, Prof Ibrahim had told a private television channel that they would take up the cases of Ali Gilani and Shahbaz Taseer with Taliban shura in the next meeting. Yousuf Shah informed that all the concerns and demands from both sides would be put on the negotiation table – including the prisoner swap issue and TTP complaint about alleged mistreatment of their members in government custody.
Shah said they would finalise the venue in a next couple of days and then the direct meeting would be arranged in the second half of next week . He was however tight lipped about the area where both sides would sit across the table but sources said that it was likely to be the same area where the first direct contact took place. They however said that some two to three venues would be picked in the areas on the border of South and North Waziristan and the final venue would be revealed only few hours before the meeting to ensure security.
‘NEXT MEETING TO END DEADLOCK’
Said Alam Khan from Peshawar adds: Talking to mediamen on Saturday, Maulana Yousaf Shah said that a meeting between the government committee and Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Political Shura is likely to take place in next two-to-three days.
“In next two-to-three days, members of government and Taliban committee will proceed to tribal areas, where the second round of face-to-face talks will be held,” he said. In this regard, he said that contacts have been established with the TTP . However, He said that TTP Political Shura was asked to determine a location for the meeting.
“The meeting will be held somewhere in FATA and it will end the deadlock in peace talks ,” he said. Besides other issues, he said, extension in ceasefire and exchange of prisoners would also be discussed during the meeting. The first round of direct talks between the government and TTP Shura was held on March 26 in tribal areas.
Meanwhile, another Member of Taliban Committee Prof. Mohammad Ibrahim Khan said that their committee playing a role of facilitating body, has been in constant contact with Taliban Political Shura and after getting a positive reply, the process of direct talks would be resumed.
He hoped that in next few days, government and Taliban would restart dialogue process. Talking to the media at Almarkaz-i-Islami, Prof. Ibrahim Khan informed that the Taliban committee had been tasked to contact with Taliban Political Shura for holing next round of direct talks with the government committee.
He said that release of prisoners by both sides would help build confidence for meaningful talks . Besides extension in ceasefire, he said that release of the sons of slain Governor Punjab Salman Taseer and former Premier Yousuf Raza Gilani would also be taken up with Taliban .