Talks with militants in comprehensive phase: Chaudhry Nisar

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar on Sunday announced talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) will enter a “comprehensive” phase in days, with both sides set to put forward formal agendas.

The announcement came days after the infighting between the Taliban groups killed more than 60 people and a ceasefire deadline by the militants expired Saturday.

TTP, which announced a ceasefire last month and then extended it for six more days on April 6, has not announced any further extension, but there have been no attacks on the ground since.

“Formal comprehensive talks will start from the next meeting which will hopefully take place within the next couple of days,” Nisar told reporters in Islamabad.

“You will get to know the main agenda both from the government side and the other side in the next meeting. The next meeting will come up with the comprehensive agenda from both the sides,” he said.

He said that the government is in the process of releasing more than 30 non-combatant Taliban prisoners in a bid to take the dialogue process forward.

“We will release up to 13 more prisoners. After their release, the number of total freed non-combatant prisoners will go up to more than 30,” Nisar said.

In March the Taliban handed over a list of 300 people including women, children, and old men, seeking their release.

Last week, the government handed over 19 tribesmen based in South Waziristan, calling them “non-combatant Taliban prisoners”.

Nisar also suggested that the talks should be held in Peshawar, but the TTP have yet to announce their willingness for this.

The earlier meetings for direct talks with TTP leaders have taken place at undisclosed locations in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan where the Taliban have their hold.

The interior minister said that the government has also taken up the issue of the release of a senior academic — Professor Mohammad Ajmal — as well the sons of slain former Punjab governor Salman Taseer and former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, and other abductees in return for its concessions to TTP demands.

“If we are moving along the process of peace through the dialogue, the whole process will continue, and God forbid if it fails, I don’t have to announce it. You will all know,” he added.

The peace talks were a key campaign pledge for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before he was elected to office for a third time last year.