Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (centre) attends a ceremony in Kabul, Afghanistan. File/AP
Pakistan’s government on Wednesday sent a 50-member delegation of tribal elders to Kabul to negotiate an extension of a truce with the Pakistani Taliban that expired this week, two security officials said. Talks between the two sides that led to cease-fires in the past have been mediated by the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban — known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP — are a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in their country last August, as the US and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from Afghanistan.
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The TTP has been behind numerous attacks in Pakistan over the past 14 years and has long fought for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in the country, the release of their members who are in government custody and a reduction of Pakistani military presence in the country’s former tribal regions.
The development comes after the latest cease-fire expired on Tuesday. A similar truce between the TTP and Pakistan, brokered by the Afghan Taliban last November, lasted a month. However, none of the cease-fires have paved the way for a more permanent peace agreement.
The leaders of Pakistani Taliban sit during an interview. File photo
Both sides have remained silent about earlier talks in Kabul, the sticking points between them and also about the chances of an extension to the latest cease-fire. Analysts say a more permanent deal could be possible if either side is willing to show flexibility on what is or isn’t acceptable to them.
Two senior TTP members who are close to the negotiations also confirmed the arrival of the 50-member team in Kabul. They told The Associated Press that a truce extension is linked to a “positive response” from the Pakistani government. They declined to elaborate and like the two security officials, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media about the negotiations.
There was no official comment from the Pakistani government or the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban often use neighboring Afghanistan’s rugged border regions for hideouts and for staging cross-border attacks into Pakistan. They have been emboldened by the return to power of the Afghan Taliban, who last ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s when they imposed their harsh edicts and interpretation of Islamic law, severely restricting the rights of women and minorities.
In Pakistan, the TTP insurgency has been centered in the remote former tribal region, now province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, bordering Afghanistan.