Pakistan Taliban extends ceasefire in talks brokered by Kabul

The Pakistani group – known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – is separate but allied with Afghanistan’s Taliban, which seized power in the country last August.

Pakistan soldiers
Pakistani soldiers stand guard on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border [File: Akhter Gulfam/EPA]

The Pakistan Taliban says it is extending a ceasefire with the government until May 30, after the two sides held an initial round of talks hosted by Taliban rulers in neighbouring Afghanistan.

The spokesman for the armed group, Mohammad Khurasani, on Wednesday said the talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamabad government were facilitated by Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers.

The Taliban in Kabul also confirmed the talks and the extension of the ceasefire.

“Talks were held in Kabul between the government of Pakistan and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in the mediation of the Islamic Emirate,” Afghan government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said, using the self-styled name of Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in good faith, strives for a successful negotiation process and expects both sides to be tolerant and flexible,” he said on Twitter.

The Pakistani group – known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP – is separate but allied with Afghanistan’s Taliban, who seized power in their country last August.

Emboldened by the Taliban takeover, the TTP has over the past months stepped up attacks against government forces, especially along the mountainous border with Afghanistan.

The TTP has long fought for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in Pakistan, the release of their members in government custody, and a reduction of military presence in the country’s tribal regions.

Khurasani, the TTP spokesman, said the group agreed to extend the ceasefire, which began on May 10, at the request of a delegation of the Pakistani tribal elders who separately met the TTP this week. He provided no further details.

It was unclear who represented the TTP or the Pakistani government at the talks. There was also no immediate comment from Pakistan’s military or the government, although officials earlier acknowledged dispatching a delegation to Kabul for talks with the TTP.

Pakistani analyst Imtiaz Gul said Islamabad had demanded firm action from the Taliban in Kabul to prevent TTP fighters from using Afghan territory to stage cross-border attacks against Pakistan, even threatening counterattacks into Afghanistan and “pursuit by Pakistani security forces”.

“These talks are the result of Pakistan’s highest-level tough messages, which were conveyed to the Afghan Taliban” following a surge in TTP’s cross-border attacks on Pakistani troops, he said.

Last month, Pakistan carried out air attacks in Afghanistan, killing dozens of civilians, according to witnesses. The attacks were a dramatic escalation, followed by Pakistani calls on the Taliban to stop sheltering fighters.

The TTP held similar talks with Islamabad last November at the request of the Taliban. Those talks led to a monthlong ceasefire and more talks, held with the government of then-Prime Minister Imran Khan, but the truce was not extended at the time and eventually violence resumed.

The TTP has been behind numerous attacks on Pakistani security forces and civilians over the last 15 years. A faction of the group was also behind a deadly 2014 attack on an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed more than 148 people, mostly schoolchildren.

Islamabad wants Kabul to act against TTP members using Afghan territory for attacks inside Pakistan. Before the Taliban takeover, Islamabad and Kabul often traded blame and accused each other of sheltering the fighters.

Pakistan now says it has completed the construction of 93 percent of a fence along the border with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border attacks.

Source: News Agencies