ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Tuesday set up a parliamentary committee to oversee talks with the local Taliban and to ensure the process does not exceed the limits of the constitution, as Islamabad looks to end years of conflict with militants through negotiations.
Pakistan’s Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) on Tuesday gave its formal approval to the government to conduct peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban or the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The TTP is a separate group from the Afghan Taliban but shares common roots with them. The militant outfit has carried out some of the bloodiest attacks in Pakistan since 2007, seeking to impose its own brand of Islamic law via force.
However, on June 4, the TTP extended a cease-fire with the government for an indefinite period, after two days of talks with a delegation of Pakistani tribal elders that were facilitated by the Afghan Taliban.
On Tuesday, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif chaired an in-camera meeting in Islamabad attended by over 100 lawmakers and officials to deliberate on peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.
“The Parliamentary Committee on National Security formally approved the process of negotiations and approved the formation of a ‘Parliamentary Oversight Committee’ which would be responsible for overseeing the process within the constitutional limits,” an official statement said.
“The session also endorses the importance of the ‘National Grand Reconciliation Dialogue’ and said the [Parliamentary Committee on National Security] meeting was the first step in that direction,” the statement added.
It added that with the support of the Afghan government and led by Pakistan’s civilian and military officials, the government is negotiating with the outlawed TTP within the constitution’s framework to ensure peace in the country and the region.
“The meeting stated that the final outcome would be implemented after the completion of the procedure within the ambit of the Constitution of Pakistan and the approval of the Government of Pakistan,” the statement said.
Participants of the meeting reiterated that Pakistan has made remarkable achievements against terrorism and extremism which have been recognized globally.
“The meeting reiterated that under the Constitution of Pakistan, the use of force is the sole prerogative of the state,” the statement said.
Pakistan military leadership held an on talks with the TTP and on national security issues.
Last month, Pakistan’s top civil and military leadership after a meeting in Islamabad agreed that talks with the Pakistani Taliban were taking place within the ambit of the constitution and any decision on negotiations with the outlawed group would be taken with parliament’s approval.
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 erstwhile Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) once they were incorporated into Pakistan’s authority as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The Pakistani Taliban also want the country’s troops to pull out of the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, release all TTP fighters in government custody and revoke all cases against them.