ISLAMABAD - The National Assembly was informed Thursday that the PML-N government is forming a new official committee to hold direct negotiations with the Taliban next week.
The official committee with the inclusion of a Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government representative will start peace talks as major groups of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan are in favour of dialogues, said Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan while winding up the discussion on National Internal Security Policy.
Nisar said that National Crisis Management Cell and National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) would be merged soon.
About the execution of the policy, he hoped that this policy would be implemented in a year. “The government has formed this document (security policy) in over four months to counter menace of terrorism in the country,” he said, criticising the lawmakers stressing the option of a military operation in North Waziristan Agency (NWA).
“The government would take the parliament into confidence before taking any step,” he said. However, Nisar made it clear that the dialogue process with Taliban would continue while action against their groups engaged in terrorism would also continue side-by-side.
About the security policy, he said that the chief ministers meeting will also be held next week for consultation on this policy draft. “We have also consulted the armed forces about this policy,” he added.
Separately, members of both peace talks committees had a breakfast meeting with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM House and discussed ways to take forward the peace initiative with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
Sources in the government as well as in the TTP-nominated teams confirmed that on the demand of members of both the sides it was decided, in principle, to reconstitute the committees by associating some powerful players with the peace process, including the military establishment, with major role in the restive tribal areas in the government committee.
The TTP-backed committee members, Maulana Samiul Haq, Porf Ibrahim and Maulana Yousuf Shah, and the government team, Irfan Siddiqui, Maj (r) Amir, Rustam Shah Mohmand and Rahimullah Yusufzai were in attendance. Federal Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan was also present on the occasion.
Sources in the Prime Minister’s House said the military establishment’s joining the dialogue process had not so far been confirmed.
The sources said though it was premature to comment on new entrants in the dialogue committee, but most probably some influential chieftains from both South and North Waziristan, confidents of the military establishment and representatives of Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa government would be part of the peace parleys with TTP.
The sources further revealed the interior minister who is focal person in the whole exercise could even engage some mainstream rightwing political leaders having following and influence in troubled areas in neutralising the old unrest. They said a back channel with some of the militant groups having their stronghold in North Waziristan was already in place and hopefully the same channel would be fortified with inclusion of some more people in it.
When asked, sources in the TTP-nominated team told The Nation that its central Shura had no objection to direct talks with the government and the team led by Maulana Samiul Haq was fully competent to take any decision.
To another question, these sources said Maulana Samiul Haq still had role to play in the future talks between the TTP and the government and he would remain part of the TTP negotiation team.
Sources in the government further said that Federal Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan’s point of view to keep the negotiation process covert prevailed and it was decided that all the future contacts with the TTP leadership would be kept secret.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would personally be heading the new negotiating team with Federal Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan playing the role of a focal person as he had already done a lot of work to persuade some of the TTP component groups for dialogue.
In the joint statement issued after the meeting, it was stated that the present committees would only perform the duties of coordination.
Later, taking to reporters Maulana Samiul Haq termed the meeting positive, saying the prime minister was upbeat about the outcome of the peace initiative and hoped positive developments would avert a military operation. “Nawaz said he will try not to launch a military operation,” the JUI-S chief stated. Sami said the team could visit Waziristan in the coming days.
To a question, he said they would ask the TTP leadership to help the government agencies trace out the militants involved in the Islamabad courts attack, adding the agencies were capable of hunting down these miscreants.
Replying to another question, he said consensus of all stakeholders was vital for exchange of prisoners and military withdrawal from the tribal areas. “Things will not work without the stakeholders, so we seek their cooperation,” he added.
The head of the government committee, Irfan Siddiqui, said the time had come to take decisions for the restoration of peace.
Replying to a question, Siddiqui said it was decided at the meeting that a member of the government committee would also go along the Taliban committee for a meeting with the Taliban Shura in North Waziristan.
According to the statement issued by the PM House, PM Nawaz Sharif, addressing both the committees, said the present committees would only perform coordination duties. He said the teams would consider new strategies to make the decision-making process more effective. The PM said the government prefers the dialogue option for a lasting peace.