Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is deeply divided over the issue of talks with the PML-N government as the group’s leaders have come up with contradictory statements last over the past few days.
The government is also in a mess over the Taliban talks issue as Information Minister, Pervez Rashid says talks have started with the Taliban and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denied statement of his own cabinet colleague.
Cracks in the ranks of the TTP are visible in the media following Hakimullah Mehsud’s decision to dismiss Asmat Muawiya, the Taliban chief of Punjab faction over his remarks to welcome Prime Minister Sharif’s offer for a dialogue with the government.
In his first address to the nation last month, Mr. Sharif again offered talks to the Taliban to end bloodshed. At the same time, he sounded warning to the Taliban of use of force of they preferred to continue attacks.
Muawiya’s statement angered the TTP leadership and the TTP Spokesman Shahidullah Shahid argued Muawiya is not allowed to make policy statements. Muawiya rejected his dismissal and the TTP cannot sack him as the Punjabi faction has its own ‘Shura’ and they are independent in taking decisions.
It seems that the TTP leadership has taken Muawiay’s statement seriously and the latest reports suggest that TTP members had raided the residence of Muawiya in North Waziristan tribal region. The move can intensify infighting in the Taliban ranks.
Taliban sources tell NewsPakistan that the Punjabi Taliban are backing Muawiya in his stance over talks with the government. They also claim that some Pashtoon Taliban also favour Muawiya’s approach as they want to give peace a chance.
The sources admit differences within the TTP ranks on political issues and opinion is deeply divided over whether the TTP hold talks or give up the option. The TTP leadership is under pressure after the government’s dialogue offer.
It is not the sacking of the Punjabi Taliban leader over the dialogue issue but in July the Taliban leadership also removed Ehsanullah Ehsan as the TTP spokesman over his alleged statement on the Afghan Taliban. Ehsan had admitted differences with the TTP leadership over political issues, including the peace talks with the government.
Ehsan later also relinquished his responsibility as head of the TTP’s Political Commission to protest against his removal as spokesman.
There is serious efforts for talks on the part of the Taliban as they have yet to appoint a new head of the so-called Political Commission. There are serious concerns about the hardliners among the Taliban who could try to derail any efforts for talks.
The TTP had originally offered conditional talks to the former government of Pakistan People’s Party in February but had rejected calls from the government to halt attacks. They also wanted release of some of their leaders as a condition for talks. Later they wanted few guarantors and also named some leaders.
The PPP government did not give importance to the TTP offer as there had been difference of opinion between the political and military leaders.
The Taliban withdrew their dialogue offer to the government of Nawaz Sharif in early June a day after a U.S. drone killed their deputy chief Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud.
The PML-N gov’t has not yet taken any serious step to make some progress towards the talks. The ministers are issuing conflicting statement.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Sunday denied media reports about secret talks between the government and the Taliban, saying emphatically that there had been no talks so far. The Information Minister claims talks have started. Such contradictory remarks by key ministers show a non-serious approach to an important issue.