PESHAWAR: As Pakistan's government on Wednesday sent a 50-member delegation of tribal elders to Kabul to negotiate an extension of a truce with the Pakistani Taliban that expired this week, analysts expressed pessimism about the negotiations, saying there was little chance Islamabad would yield to the militants' demands.
The Pakistani Taliban — known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP — are a separate group but allied with the Afghan Taliban, who took over Kabul last August as US and NATO troops withdrew. The TTP has been behind numerous attacks in Pakistan over the past 14 years and has long fought for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in the country, the release of their members who are in government custody and a reduction of Pakistani military presence in the country’s former tribal regions.
The latest ceasefire expired on Tuesday this week. Before that the Afghan Taliban brokered a ceasefire between the TTP and Pakistan last November, which lasted a month. However, none of the ceasefires have paved the way for a more permanent peace agreement.
“All those peace deals collapsed,” Ayaz Wazir, a former ambassador who hails from the tribal areas, told Arab News, referring to past attempts at reaching a permanent agreement. “Though tribal elders have been involved this time, we can only pray for the success of the negotiations,.”
The TTP is asking Pakistan to scrap a 2018 law that did away with the semi-independent status of the former tribal regions that dates back to British colonial rule. The law aimed to grant equal rights to millions of residents in the restive FATA areas once they were incorporated into Pakistan's authority as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
TTP also wants Pakistani troops to pull out of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, release all the TTP fighters in government custody and revoke all the legal cases against them.
“The exercise of securing a peace agreement is extremely difficult because it is nearly impossible for Pakistan to accept these demands,” Wazir said.
Malik Riaz Bangash, a security and terrorism expert in KP, concurred with Wazir, calling the negotiations a “futile exercise” because the demands of the TTP would be "near impossible" for the government of Pakistan to accept.
“This is a futile exercise and will not last long,” he said. “The demands of the TTP, such as handing them over the control of erstwhile FATA and release of all prisoners, will not be acceptable to Pakistan.”
But security analyst Brig. (Retd) Said Nazir Mohmand said he was hopeful.
“I’m hopeful that talks this time around as compared to previous failed negotiations will result in arresting peace because dynamics, ground realities and environment around the peace talks are totally different,” he said.
“This time the active role of tribal elders, Pakistani officials and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan will for sure help the two sides to reach a peace deal.”
Previous talks with the TTP had also failed because of an "unfriendly government" in Afghanistan, he said, referring to the previous government of President Ashraf Ghani with whom Islamabad had sour ties. Now, Mohmand added, the Taliban government in Kabul was extending “all out support.”
“This time, I think all the three parties such as Pakistan, the TTP and the Afghan Taliban want durable peace,” he added. “But if the talks fail then I fear relations between Kabul and Islamabad can experience a downward trend.”