Frustrated over apparent by-passing of parliament with regard to peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has demanded that public representatives “must be taken on board” on the issue.
“The PPP believes that all decisions must be taken by parliament,” according to a statement issued by Secretary General Farhatullah Babar after a meeting of central leaders of the party at Zardari House in the federal capital on Saturday.
The hybrid meeting was presided over by former president Asif Ali Zardari and PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.
The PPP chairman, who also holds the portfolio of foreign minister in Shehbaz Sharif’s cabinet, also took to Twitter to reiterate his party’s position.
“PPP held a high-level meeting to discuss the issue of terrorism, particularly in light of recent developments in Afghanistan, with the TTA (Tehreek-i-Taliban Afghanistan) & TTP. PPP believes that all decisions must be taken by parliament.
“PPP will be reaching out to allied parties to create [a] consensus on the way forward,” the foreign minister added.
The development came after a series of meetings were held between representatives of Pakistan and the outlawed TTP in Kabul to broker a peace deal. The Afghan Taliban are acting as a mediator. A tribal jirga, comprising elders, politicians and others from erstwhile tribal areas, also visited Afghanistan and met the TTP leaders.
The flurry of meetings led to the TTP announcing an indefinite ceasefire.
The PPP high-level meeting discussed in detail the issue of terrorism, particularly in the light of recent developments in Afghanistan, with the TTA and TTP, a PPP handout said.
The meeting was attended among others by two former prime ministers – Yousuf Raza Gilani and Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Faryal Talpur, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, Syed Khursheed Shah, Sherry Rehman, Nayyer Bukhari, Faisal Karim Kundi, Humayun Khan, Nadeem Afzal Chan, Akhunzada Chattan, Rukhsana Bangash, Nisar Khuro and Babar.
On June 3, Pakistan welcomed the ceasefire announced by the banned TTP, as the federal government for the first time publicly acknowledged that it was negotiating a peace deal with the outlawed outfit.
The confirmation from the government came a day after the TTP extended the ceasefire for an indefinite period after the Pakistani tribal jirga visited Kabul and held talks with its leadership.
Both the sides have been holding talks for the last several weeks but the Pakistani side until now remained tight-lipped.
Questions were asked about whether the incumbent government was on board in regard to talks with the TTP, as military officials held a series of meetings with the militant outfit in recent days in the Afghan capital.
Federal Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb, in a statement, said that the talks with the TTP were taking place at the government level.
“The talks with the TTP began in 2021 and negotiations have been taking place at the government level,” the minister said, confirming the peace talks with the banned group.
The minister also confirmed that the Afghan Taliban were acting as mediators between the two sides, adding that the civil and military representatives were part of the Pakistani side holding talks with the TTP.
She said the government welcomed the ceasefire announced by the TTP.
However, the PPP’s latest statement suggested that all coalition partners were not on board.
In return for a ceasefire, Pakistan reportedly released certain TTP prisoners and even pardoned some who were convicted in terror cases. There was, however, no official confirmation.
The TTP put forward several demands, including reversal of the Fata merger with K-P, monetary compensation and allowing them to keep their arms. The Pakistani side, however, wants them to lay down their arms and is also reluctant to restore the status of Fata.
There were questions asked about whether the Pakistani team holding talks with the TTP had the mandate to discuss matters that involved constitutional amendments.
The information minister clarified that the negotiation committee had the mandate. “Whatever decision the team will arrive at would be approved by the government and parliament.”
The peace process resumed last month after Pakistan sent a clear message to the Afghan Taliban government that it would no more tolerate cross-border terrorist attacks.
More than 120 Pakistani security forces were martyred this year in terrorist attacks mostly carried out by the TTP from across the border.
In April, frequent cross-border terrorist attacks compelled Pakistan to launch retaliatory air strikes targeting the TTP hideouts across the border. It also warned the Afghan Taliban to take stern action against the TTP, which was operating with impunity from the Afghan soil.
The Afghan Taliban, feeling pressure from Pakistan, once again persuaded the TTP to engage with Pakistan. A few weeks ago, a Pakistani delegation led by Peshawar Corps Commander Lt General Faiz Hameed visited Kabul and held talks with the TTP. The talks led to renewal of truce by the TTP for May 30 which had now been extended indefinitely.