The Pakistani Taliban has extended a March ceasefire until April 10, a spokesman said, following the release of a batch of low-level prisoners by the Pakistani government.
The government began negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) through intermediaries in February to try to end the group’s bloody seven-year insurgency.
“We announce to extend the ceasefire till April 10 and TTP directs all Mujahideen to suspend their actions against government and security forces,” spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement on Friday.
A day earlier, the Interior Ministry said 19 Taliban prisoners it described as “non-combatant” had been released, in a move designed to invigorate a peace process with the group.
A spokesman for the ministry, Danial Gillani, told Al Jazeera that the prisoners had been released between March 21 and 28 in South Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan.
The detainees all belong to the Mehsud tribe, which dominates South Waziristan. They were arrested “on the basis of suspicion and intelligence reports,” Gillani said, adding that it was government policy that “innocent detainees be released after investigations”.
The talks with the group centre on the fate of 800 prisoners being held by the government who the Taliban insists are “innocent” family members.
The state has demanded the release of several prominent figures being held by fighters including Ali Haider Gilani, son of former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani and the son of assassinated Punjab governor Salman Taseer.
The highest government official in South Waziristan, Islam Zeb, said that the government had started releasing non-combatant prisoners to boost the reconciliation efforts. He said another 100 prisoners on the Taliban’s list were being processed and would be released in the coming days.
There was no indication whether the TTP would make reciprocal prisoner releases.
Asad Hashim in Islamabad contributed to this report.