Islamabad: The month-long ceasefire announced by the Pakistani Taliban, which ends tomorrow, will be extended as the government and the banned group work towards a solution to end the menace of violence here.
The two parties agreed to carry forward the peace process at a joint meeting presided over by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan last evening and attended by members of the committees of the government and the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
Talking to reporters after the meeting, the head of the TTP committee, Maulana Samiul Haq, confirmed that the ceasefire would continue beyond March 31.
But he did not say whether the ceasefire was still “temporary” or “permanent”.
Khan later called on Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM House and briefed him about the latest developments and progress on dialogue with the hardcore Taliban.
The Taliban and government committees are most likely to meet again in the coming week and will proceed to North Waziristan for further talks that will take place at a different location.
Pakistani state negotiators had on March 26 flown down to North Waziristan to hold the first-ever direct talks with the Taliban. The talks were held to find a solution to the decade-long insurgency that has claimed over 40,000 lives.
The talks struck an impasse last month after a faction of the banned militant group killed 23 kidnapped Pakistani paramilitary soldiers, resulting in multiple targeted airstrikes by the military against militant hideouts in the tribal region of the northwest.
The Taliban then announced a month-long ceasefire which was reciprocated by the government.
The government’s new committee consists of former ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand, Additional Chief Secretary FATA Arbab Arif, Secretary Ports and Shipping Habibullah Khattak and Additional Secretary to Prime Minister Fawad Hasan Fawad.
TTP intermediaries are Maulana Haq who is the head of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema Islam (Sami group), Jamaat-e-Islami’s Professor Muhammad Ibrahim, and JUI-S spokesperson Maulana Yousaf Shah.
The Taliban has sought the release of over 300 non-combatants who they say are in the custody of the security forces.
Pakistan has officially denied that any such person is in the custody. However, it has promised to look into the issue.
The government-nominated committee had also sought release of the abducted sons of former premier Yousuf Raza Gilani.
Ali Haider Gilani and Shahbaz Taseer were abducted by the Taliban in May last year and August 2011 respectively.