ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan is in talks with factions of the Pakistani Taliban, a banned militant group responsible for some of the country’s worst terrorist attacks, and would award members who lay down their arms, Prime Minister Imran Khan said Friday.
Although the details of the talks were unclear, negotiations with the group known as Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would be the most significant development as similar efforts failed in 2014 and Pakistan turned to a massive military operation to downsize the group.
“There are different groups that form the Pakistani Taliban or TTP,” Khan said in an interview with Turkish state television TRT World. “We are in talks with some of them about a process of reconciliation. We may not reach a conclusion or agreement in the end, but we will talk. “
In a statement shortly after Mr. Khan’s interview, the TTP urged its fighters to continue their attacks. She denied divisions in her ranks and did not admit the ongoing talks. It also confessed to a fatal attack on a Pakistani military convoy on Friday, the latest in a series of such attacks.
Khan said the talks took place in neighboring Afghanistan, where the Afghan Taliban are in power, after overthrowing the country’s US-backed government in August.
The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are separate entities, although their ideologies and training in religious seminars overlap in the tribal areas of Pakistan. While Pakistan’s military is fighting the Pakistani Taliban, it has long been accused of promoting the Afghan Taliban.
The takeover of the Afghan Taliban next door has given Pakistan an ally, and Pakistani officials have urged the group’s government in Kabul to be recognized internationally.
Taliban government spokesmen in Afghanistan did not respond to requests for comment on Khan’s disclosure of talks in Afghanistan.
An Afghan Taliban commander, who was aware of the talks and spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss details, said his group had proposed the negotiations to both sides and offered their assistance to end the Aid two decades of conflict in Pakistan.
Pakistani officials remained silent on the details, but two senior security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations, suggested that the Afghan Taliban were acting as mediators.
Until last year, the Pakistani Taliban appeared to be severely weakened, their top leadership killed or pushed into Afghanistan after the 2014 talks failed. The subsequent Pakistani military operation took away the group, but also took a heavy toll on the civilian population.
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And the Pakistani Taliban maintained the ambush capability, which has intensified in recent weeks.
Even when serious talks are started, the positions of the two sides seem difficult to reconcile.
One of the senior Pakistani security officials said talks would only take place “within the limits of Pakistani law and constitution” and that there would be “no acceptance” for the militants if they did not accept these terms and lay down their arms.
The militant group does not accept the Pakistani constitution and has long called for the introduction of Islamic law or Sharia law. She reiterated this position last month when she turned down an offer of amnesty by high-ranking Pakistani officials.
“The TTP has two main conditions for negotiation: the implementation of Sharia law and the release of TTP detainees,” said Abdul Sayed, a Sweden-based security specialist and researcher for militant groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“It seems quite difficult that negotiations with the state can continue with such tough demands. Without these conditions, TTP says that meaningful dialogue cannot take place, ”said Mr Sayed.
Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud has contributed to coverage from Islamabad and Mujib Mashal from New Delhi.