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Taliban announce one-month ceasefire, in 'national interest'

02 March, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) on Saturday announced a month-long 'unconditional' ceasefire, a move that would help resumption of peace dialogue suspended after execution of 23 kidnapped FC soldiers.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday conveyed to Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif to hold the guns and stop airstrikes till the review of the situation in the backdrop of the Pakistani Taliban's unilateral announcement of a one-month ceasefire, an official source claimed.

The source said that the political and military leadership will meet soon to discuss the situation and announce a halt of the ongoing airstrikes to help the peace process succeed.

"Following a positive response from the government, an appeal from religious scholars, in honour of the representative committee and in the greater interest of Islam and Pakistan, we have decided not to carry out any activities for one month," TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement.

The announcement comes just two days after Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan told reporters in Peshawar that the government was still in touch with some Taliban groups. "We are in contact with groups that have never attacked Pakistan's interests, we have dialogue for them," the interior minister had said.

Taliban had initially put forward two primary conditions for the peace process to move forward: 1) government pull out army from Waziristan and stop action against them, and 2) government release their women and children detained by the army, a claim that has already been refuted by the ISPR. Though the unilateral announcement by TTP to hold their bombs for one month has apparently no prerequisites attached to it, sources say Taliban have been assured by the government through back channel intermediaries that no action would be taken against them throughout the country.

The spokesman said Taliban shura agreed unanimously on the ceasefire after receiving 'positive response' to its proposals from the government, in a veiled reference to what are being dubbed some 'guarantees' provided by the government side to the TTP.

"We announce a month-long ceasefire from today and advise all our companions and subgroups to respect the decision and completely refrain from all jihad activities during this time period," the TTP statement read.

The spokesman said peace talks with the government had been initiated with honest intentions and seriousness.

"The TTP is a responsible organisation which works through the consensus of a higher council and an amir for making decisions," says the statement

The last paragraph of the statement calls upon the government to take the negotiations process seriously and keep the dialogue away from mundane politics. "We hope that the government will take our ceasefire announcement seriously and will work to move forward in a positive way while keeping the peace process away from all types of politics," the statement said.

Following the execution of 23 FC soldiers by Taliban, government had announced the talks could progress only if Taliban announce a unilateral ceasefire. The announcement by Taliban has removed a major irritant and has paved the way for resumption of stalled peace process. Any terrorist activity by splinter Taliban groups during the ceasefire period, however, still has the potential of causing another dent to the initiative.

Where TTP needs to effectively implement their decision and ensure that none of its affiliates or even the dissidents indulge in a terrorist activity, the civilian leadership of the country will also have to join heads with the military leadership to take them into confidence, bring them on the same page and devise a plan to make the peace initiative productive.

Some experts, however, still cast doubt on the intentions of the Taliban and say the announcement by TTP is a tactical move by the terrorists that may provide them a one-month breathing space which would not only save them from heavy losses during the recently launched sporadic airstrikes by the armed forces but also provide them ample time to regroup and reorganise themselves.

Speculations have been rife during the recent days that the army was planning an offensive in North Waziristan to 'teach Taliban a lesson'.

The ceasefire announcement by the TTP has also left the mediation committees set up by the both sides virtually 'redundant' and has put the ball directly in the court of government and the Taliban.

End.

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