Caught between Taliban, good and bad

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ISLAMABAD

The dialogue committees of the government and the banned terrorist outfit, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Saturday made a major headway in the peace process by evolving a mechanism for identification and differentiation between combatant and non-combatant Taliban prisoners.
Both the sides also agreed to form a subcommittee to monitor and facilitate the release of detainees kept by the government, Pakistan Today has learnt.
A source privy to the meeting said the TTP committee was urged to persuade the Taliban Shura to at least release Professor Ajmal Khan to reciprocate the government’s initiative.
“It was agreed that a mechanism would be evolved to identify and monitor facilitation of those Taliban prisoners who are cleared by the security forces for release out of the lists provided by the Taliban. Moreover, it was also decided that the government would release another 13 Taliban militants which have already been cleared by the forces,” the source added.
Asked whether those already released had also been cleared by the military establishment, the source asserted that the military leadership had also cleared those released earlier while another 13 Taliban prisoners would be released.
He said that all 19 TTP prisoners had been held by the agencies at least for one year or so and all had been debriefed and cleared by the security establishment.
The source added that the next meeting of the government’s dialogue committee with the Taliban Shura would be held in Miranshah. He said the Taliban committee had been told to release civilians and army officials abducted so far.
“The Taliban have been told to act now as the government was under severe pressure from media and politicians who were opposing the peace process on pretext that the Taliban leadership was reluctant to reciprocate the government’s generous release of its detainees.”
The source said that if the Taliban did not release Prof Ajmal then the government would not be able to move even an inch from its position and no more relaxation would be given to the Taliban.
“The Taliban have been told that there is a need for the militants to show flexibility and release the abducted civilians so as the pressure from media and politicians could be lessened. Moreover, a goodwill gesture will also help create a sympathy wave among the public for the Taliban,” he asserted.
The source added that the TTP committee had been told that the Taliban should now extend the ceasefire for an indefinite period in return for the government’s cooperation. The source added that the committee agreed that both the sides – the TTP and the government – were sincere in resolving the dispute through dialogue and peace could be restored amicably in across country.

‘MORE TTP MEN TO BE FREED’:

Following the meeting, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that the Taliban and government should give their input on taking the dialogue process further. He said that the government had decided to release another 13 Taliban leaders, including some of those which included in the list provided by the TTP.
He said that Taliban prisoners were released as a goodwill gesture and almost 30 prisoners would be released until the next meeting with Taliban.
The minister said the direct talks are entering defining moments, as the two sides would discuss core issues in the coming round. However, he cautioned that there cannot be one-sided traffic and the other side will also have to reciprocate the goodwill gesture of releasing non-combatants.
He said many people were in the custody of the Taliban and in Saturday’s meeting, the government side particularly pointed out the name of Prof Ajmal, sons of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and late Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer.
He said there is no justification of detaining civilians, foreigners, and government servants.

‘DIRECT TALKS SOON’:

Meanwhile, Samiul Haq, head of the TTP committee, told reporters that next round of direct talks with the Taliban Shura would take place in a day or two. He hoped for further extension in ceasefire and complete restoration of peace in the country.
The chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S), who is known as “Father of Taliban” in the West, said real peace talks were yet to commence as ongoing dialogues were only confidence building measures.
Earlier on Friday, the TTP had extended until April 10 the ceasefire earlier announced by it and hoped that the government would reciprocate its ‘gesture’ with positive steps.
The extension came a day after the government had announced that it had released 19 non-combatant Taliban as a goodwill gesture for bolstering the peace process.