A Taliban fighter (R) gestures to people waiting to cross into Pakistan at the Afghanistan-Pakistan border crossing point in Spin Boldak on November 3, 2021, after authorities reopened the border following nearly a month-long closure. (AFP)
Updated 17 sec ago REUTERSNovember 07, 2021
- The militant group had 2 rounds of talks, facilitated by the Afghan Taliban
ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban have demanded that the government of Pakistan release a number of prisoners as a condition for talks aimed at laying the ground for full cease-fire negotiations, multiple sources in the group said.
The Pakistani Taliban, also known as Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan and separate from the Afghan Taliban, have had two rounds of preliminary talks, facilitated by the Afghan Taliban, a commander based in the Afghan province of Kunar said.
Sources close to the matter said Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network and the current Afghan Taliban interior minister, was helping the talks.
The Pakistan Taliban, which combines a number of jihadi and militant groups that have been fighting the government of Pakistan since 2007, is included on the US State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations.
Last month Prime Minister Imran Khan told Turkey’s TRT television that his government was in talks with parts of the militant group as part of a “reconciliation process.”
The release of the prisoners is meant to be a confidence-building measure, three militant commanders said, adding that the outcome of the talks was still uncertain.
• Last month Prime Minister Imran Khan said his government was in talks with parts of the militant group as part of a ‘reconciliation process.’
• The release of the prisoners is meant to be a confidence-building measure, three militant commanders said, adding that the outcome of the talks was still uncertain.
“We aren’t too hopeful of the immediate results of the talks but our leaders had demanded the release of prisoners if they are sincere in meaningful negotiations,” a militant commander said from Afghanistan’s Kunar province.
No comment was available from the Pakistani government. The Interior Ministry, Foreign Ministry and the ISPR, the armed forces communications wing, did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
According to negotiators, the two sides agreed not to issue statements either supporting or opposing the peace process or against each other till the accord is signed and made public.
Muhammad Khurasani, spokesman of the Pakitan Taliban, said in a text message the group had “never refused meaningful talks” but that there were no developments on the ground yet.
The attacks carried by the group have killed and wounded thousands of civilians and Pakistani service personnel over the years but the outfit was badly weakened by the Pakistan military’s Zarb-e-Azb operation in 2014 which drove it from its stronghold in North Waziristan.
However it has a force estimated at around 4,000-5,000 fighters, many based across the border in Afghanistan, and there has been a spate of incidents along the border since the Afghan Taliban seized Kabul in August.