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Taliban refuse to extend ceasefire; still 'committed' to peace process

17 April, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban Wednesday said they would not extend a ceasefire called to help peace negotiations with the government, but insisted they were still committed to the talks process.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) announced a one-month ceasefire at the start of March as the government sought a negotiated end to their bloody seven-year insurgency. The TTP extended the ceasefire to April 10, but complained there had been "complete silence" from the government since then and hinted that the military was trying to thwart talks. "TTP's central shura (council) has unanimously agreed not to extend the ceasefire," the group said in a statement.

"However, the talks process will continue with complete sincerity and seriousness, and whenever a clear development comes from the government side, the TTP will not hesitate to respond with a serious move." Inside sources familiar with the developments told that the decision to not extend the ceasefire was taken in a bid to win over the anti-dialogue camp of Taliban led by Sheheryar Mehsud which had been recently caught in a bloody feud with a pro-dialogue camp led by Khan Said Sajna, another Taliban leader of Mehsud origin.

The announcement comes three days after Interior Minister Nisar Ali Khan said the process was about to enter a "comprehensive" phase. The Taliban's announcement prompted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to summon a high-level meeting on national security today (Thursday). In a single-page statement written in Urdu, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said that the decision of not extending the ceasefire was unanimously taken by political shura of the TTP, the umbrella organisation of several militant groups. The statement was issued after conclusion of a three-day meeting of Taliban shura at an undisclosed location in North Waziristan.

"The TTP started talks with the government with sincerity and took all steps necessary for making the dialogue process successful, but the government failed to fulfil even its just and basic demands," the TTP spokesman said. "Leave alone the creation of peace zone facility and release of non-combatant prisoners, the government did not even bother to stop military operations against the Taliban, which indicate that the government is spineless and the real power comes from somewhere else," the statement said.

Shahid said that despite strong opposition among Taliban leaders, the TTP had succeeded in convincing its members to give a "gift" of a month-long ceasefire to the nation and the truce was extended for another 10 days. "The demands to halt military offensives against Taliban and release of their non-combatant prisoners were good enough for creating a positive environment for peace talks, but the government fell short of even considering it," Shahid said.

Meanwhile, the top government functionaries are to meet today (Thursday) in the backdrop of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan's refusal to extend the ceasefire with the government.

Sensing the gravity of the situation, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has summoned a high-level meeting today (Thursday) to discuss the issues of national security, internal affairs and latest development regarding peace talks with the TTP, top-level government functionaries told Daily Times. The top brass of the Pakistan Army has already shown reservations over the TTP's demand to the government that it release its 400 prisoners, while the government has sought the freedom of civilian detainees from the TTP, in return.

While talking, Taliban peace committee chief Maulana Samiul Haq said both the government and the Taliban agreed to take the dialogue to its logical end. "Despite the tension, we are hopeful that the two sides would soon begin exchanging goodwill gestures," he said. However, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, following a meeting of the TTP Shura, said the government did not give a satisfactory response to the Taliban's 40-day ceasefire, adding that 50 of their detained members were killed during this time period.

"We have decided not to extend the ceasefire. This has been the decision taken by the Taliban Shura," he said, adding that if the government took a "serious" step, the TTP would respond. According to senior officials at the PM Secretariat, Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif, Chief of General Staff Lt Gen Ashfaq Nadeem and ISI DG Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam, chief ministers of all four provinces and the federal cabinet members will participate in today's meeting, which will be chaired by the prime minister. The interior minister and ISI DG will brief the political and military leadership over the ongoing peace measures.

End.

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