Peace talks with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist group were controversial to begin with, and the new government is not doing itself any favours by conducting them in an unusually secretive manner. Several political parties, including a few coalition members, have complained of being shut out.
Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah recently tried to address these concerns, but may have made them worse. At a press conference on Wednesday, Sanaullah said that negotiations will only be held under a Constitutional framework, and that talks will move forward under the guidance of Parliament, adding that in-camera briefings will be held before the prime minister addresses Parliament on the issue. However, the PPP, in particular, remains concerned by the government’s secretive approach, even though party chief Bilawal Bhutto Zardari is the incumbent foreign minister.
Talks are reportedly progressing well — the group announced an “indefinite ceasefire” in early June, citing “substantial progress” in the negotiations with the government. However, we have seen talks begin well and collapse several times in recent years, reportedly due to the TTP’s rehabilitation and amnesty demands. However, terrorist attacks continue despite the Afghan government’s assurances to keep the TTP in check. A spike had been reported after the Afghan Taliban told known TTP members to leave their safe havens in the country and go back to their homes, often meaning Pakistan. This, in turn, is at the heart of the amnesty issue for the wanted terrorists in the group, who would likely face death sentences if caught on Pakistani soil.
However, amnesties may be a tough pill for many Pakistanis, especially those who directly suffered due to the group. “Tens of thousands of Pakistanis” have been killed in TTP attacks since 2007, according to respected think tanks such as the Brookings Institute. On the other hand, while Islamabad continues to claim that “there is no structure of organised terrorism in any part of Pakistan”, the truth in this statement is unimportant for Pakistanis. The statement is intended for foreign audiences, particularly those that want to extend FATF sanctions on Pakistan. Pakistanis are less concerned about whether or not terrorism in the country is “organised” and are more concerned that hundreds of security officials and civilians continue to die every year in TTP attacks.
Source, express tribune