New Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) Pakistan sent a secret delegation to neighbouring Afghanistan to hold talks with the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) as part of the efforts to revive peace efforts with the militant group, RFE/RL reported.
The TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has intensified its attacks in Pakistan since a month-long ceasefire expired and peace talks collapsed in December last.
The Pakistani delegation held several days of talks with TTP chief Noor Wali Mehsud and members of the extremist group’s leadership council in Afghanistan’s southeastern province of Paktika, said sources with knowledge of the discussions, the report said.
The delegation — which arrived in Paktika’s Bermal district on January 9 — consisted of influential Pashtun tribal elders from Pakistan, the sources said.
Many members of the TTP are Pashtuns from the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which straddles the border with Afghanistan.
“The elders stayed there for two nights and held three or four rounds of discussions,” said a source close to the delegation, adding, “The TTP leadership welcomed the delegation with traditional Pashtun hospitality and slaughtered two sheep.”
The source added that the talks centred on reviving the expired truce and resuming talks over a negotiated end to the TTP’s 14-year insurgency in Pakistan, where thousands of people have been killed in militant attacks and clashes between the TTP and the military, the report said.
The talks between the Pakistani delegation and the TTP were mediated by the Afghan Taliban, which has close ideological and organisational ties with the TTP. The Afghan militant group is also a long-time ally of Islamabad, its main foreign sponsor.
The Pakistani delegation also visited Kabul, where it met senior members of the Haqqani network, a key Afghan Taliban faction, said a source with knowledge of the delegation’s visit.
The network is a US-designated terrorist organisation, the report said.
The Taliban’s Interior Minister, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani network, has been the key facilitator for the talks between Islamabad and the TTP. But the delegation did not meet with Haqqani, the source said, adding that the reason was unclear, RFE/RL reported.
“The delegation proposed an offer [on behalf of the government] to release half of the 100 TTP prisoners,” said a member of the delegation who did not wish to be named.
“But the TTP leadership did not agree,” he said.
A source close to the delegation said TTP leaders complained that Islamabad had repeatedly backtracked on a “promise” to release all the prisoners.
The delegation returned to Pakistan on January 11. They were expected to brief Pakistan military officials upon their return, the sources said, the report added.