Pakistani Taliban ends ceasefire, future of peace talks uncertain

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan group unilaterally announces end to month-long ceasefire with the Pakistani government.

Mullah Fazlullah
A file photo showing the then Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Mullah Fazlullah, (centre), at an undisclosed location at Pakistan-Afghan border [File: EPA]

Islamabad, Pakistan – The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) armed group, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has unilaterally announced an end to a month-long ceasefire with the Pakistani government, accusing authorities of reneging on promises made in the initial stages of peace talks, a statement says.

The ceasefire came into effect on November 9, after the Pakistani government announced the start of talks with the armed group, which has been fighting Pakistan’s government since 2007 and has carried out dozens of attacks targeting civilians and security forces across the country.

Late on Thursday, the TTP announced “it is not possible for the ceasefire to continue” under current conditions, in a statement released to journalists.

Pakistan’s government is yet to comment on the developments, and Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry did not immediately respond to an Al Jazeera request for comment.

On November 8, Chaudhry confirmed that the month-long ceasefire had been agreed upon between the government and the TTP.

“The state’s sovereignty, national security, peace in relevant areas and social and economic stability will be considered during the talks,” he was quoted by state-run television broadcaster Pakistan Television as saying.

The announcement came a month after Prime Minister Imran Khan first announced that talks between the two sides were ongoing, following the fall of the Afghan government to the Afghan Taliban in mid-August.

The TTP and Afghan Taliban are allied, although maintain separate operation and command structures.

On November 14, acting Afghan Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi confirmed that the Afghan Taliban were acting as mediators in the talks.

‘Part of a war strategy’

The TTP’s statement on Thursday cited concerns with implementation by the Pakistani government of six initially agreed upon points for withdrawing from the ceasefire.

The armed group says that the initial agreement guaranteed the release of 102 TTP prisoners being held by Pakistan, to “be released to the TTP through the Islamic Emirate on November 1”.

It also accused Pakistani security forces of violating the ceasefire by conducting raids and arrests against TTP fighters in the areas of Lakki Marwat, Swat, Bajaur, Dir and Swabi.

Pakistan’s military did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the allegations.

Security analysts have been sceptical of the peace talks process, citing previous such agreements between the TTP or its allies and the Pakistani government that collapsed.

“All these settlements will not make for the end of the TTP in this region,” said Amir Rana, a security analyst and director of the Islamabad-based Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies (PIPS).

“They still have ambitions, and they think that this ceasefire, the talks is part of a war strategy. According to them, this is not the end of the war, but is a part of the war.”

Since 2007, the TTP has carried out some of the deadliest attacks on Pakistani soil, targeting political leaders, civilians and security forces in wave after wave of suicide bombings, Improvised Explosive Device (IED) attacks, targeted killings and other forms of attacks.

In 2014, the group claimed responsibility for a gun-and-bomb attack on a school in the northwestern city of Peshawar, killing more than 140 people, including 132 schoolchildren.

The number of TTP attacks has dropped since a military operation launched in 2014 pushed the group out of its erstwhile stronghold of North Waziristan district, but sporadic large- and small-scale attacks have continued to take place.

Analysts say the Pakistani government’s approach to the talks may have emboldened the group.

“There are likely to be sticking points in the negotiation – in particular, the TTP’s demand for [a strict interpretation of Islamic law], which the Pakistani state will not agree to,” says Madiha Afzal, a fellow at the US-based Brookings Institution think-tank.

“But even if an agreement is not likely, the way the government has talked about a peace deal with the TTP has done great harm, because it has not made an attempt to provide a counternarrative to the group’s ideology and demands.”

In 2021, the TTP and its allies have expanded their influence in Pakistan’s northwestern border regions with Afghanistan, residents say.

The group has expanded attacks targeting civilians and security forces and has also engaged in increased extortion and the enforcement of tribal council decisions, an Al Jazeera investigation found.

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Source: Al Jazeera