Islamabad: The banned Pakistani Taliban today agreed to continue its ceasefire after holding first-ever direct talks with government negotiators at an secret location in the restive tribal region of North Waziristan.
Continuation of ceasefire was one of the primary demands of the government.
The month-long ceasefire announced by the Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would have ended on March 30.
The first-ever direct talks were held to chalk out a solution to the deadly cycle of violence that has claimed over 40,000 lives.
Soon after the talks, local media reported that Taliban has said ceasefire will remain in place throughout the dialogue process.
During the talks – held at an undisclosed location in North Waziristan in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) – both parties sought guarantees from each other.
The Pakistani state negotiators flew down to North accompanied by the nominated committee from the TTP.
Interior Ministry sources said the government dialogue committee members called up Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan after reaching the undisclosed location.
The government committee members first flew to Peshawar whereas the Taliban representatives boarded a helicopter arranged for by the Interior Ministry.
The much-anticipated direct talks were attended by all four members of the government’s revamped negotiating committee, TTP intermediaries and members of the TTP Shura.
The meeting was scheduled to take place yesterday but was postponed due to bad weather.
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 Samiul Haq – head of his own faction of the Jamiat Ulema Islam (Sami group); Jamaat-e-Islami’s Professor Ibrahim; and JUI-S spokesperson Maulana Yousaf Shah.
Earlier reports said the government-nominated dialogue committee would ask the Taliban to release sons of former Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, and slain Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and Vice Chancellor Islamia College University Ajmal Khan.
On March 24, the government had finalised its strategy at a meeting attended by the government negotiators, Interior Minister and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam.
The participants had held consultations on the agenda for peace talks, an official statement issued by the interior ministry had said without giving details.