'Secret' Talks With Taliban Reach Decisive Phase

Secret talks’ between Pakistan’s security agencies and the local Taliban – who have reportedly splintered down into many different groups – have entered a decisive phase.

While military denies dialogue, key TTP leaders confirm negotiations.

ISLAMABAD: ‘Secret talks’ between Pakistan’s security agencies and the local Taliban – who have reportedly splintered down into many different groups – have entered a decisive phase.

Now both sides are hoping their negotiations will culminate in a ‘lasting’ agreement which will restore peace in the country’s lawless tribal lands.

“We have drawn the broader outlines for a possible accord. And what we’re now working on are minor details,” said an intelligence official, who claimed the results of the ‘year-long’ peace process would be unveiled shortly.

“Unlike the past, we are trying to have something workable and implementable this time around,” said the official referring to the failure of all three agreements the security institutions had had with the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

“These are crucial times …we have to be extremely careful. A slight miscalculation can harm us in a big way,” the official, requesting anonymity, added in an apparent reference to changes in the regional war given the eventual withdrawal of the US-led international forces by 2014.

The spokesperson for the Pakistan Army did not respond to phone calls or text message to comment on this development. Publicly, the military denies having any talks with the militants.

Senior TTP associates also confirmed that these covert talks with the military establishment were reaching a climax and said there were several indications of things moving ahead.

Last month, sources added, TTP leader Maulvi Waliur Rehman Mehsud had ordered to halt the training of suicide bombers at several camps in South and North Waziristan.

“Now look how effective this thing alone is … it has never happened in four years that the TTP stops training its suicide bombers,” said Raqeebullah Mehsud, a young militant commander from the Ludha area of South Waziristan.

TTP and the deflections

Raqeebullah said TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud was not aware of these talks and he, along with a core group following his hard-line positions on talks with the government, was aware of these negotiations.

“He [Hakimullah] is out. At least people here think so,” Raqeebullah commented.

A security official also confirmed that the military was now rigorously chasing Hakimullah and his small group, into the Shawal Valley on the border between South and North Waziristan.

Though it could not be confirmed, some officials said the TTP chief might have crossed into Afghanistan after sudden defections of his loyalists to pro-Pakistan militant groups who were against launching attacks in the country’s mainland.