Pakistani Taliban announce month-long ceasefire

Islamabad, March 1: The Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Saturday announced a month-long ceasefire in what is being seen as a move to break a deadlock in peace talks with the government.

According to TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, the umbrella organisation has directed all groups to honour the ceasefire, Dawn online reported.

He said that all major militant groups under the TTP have been directed to cease attacks against the state and security forces.

“The government gave a satisfactory reply to the recommendations we gave our negotiations committee to end the deadlock in peace talks, and we have been given sufficient assurance of that the recommendations will be implemented,” the TTP spokesman was quoted as saying.

Citing sources, the Dawn report said that the decision was taken by the TTP leadership after consultation with members of the Taliban-nominated committee for peace talks.

Irfan Siddiqui, the coordinator of the government committee for peace talks, welcomed the announcement but said that they were waiting to receive a formal message from the Taliban talks committee.

Siddiqui said that if the Taliban were serious about the peace talks and the announcement of the ceasefire, then the development would bring the suspended negotiation process back on the track.

The TTP had late last month rejected the Nawaz Sharif government’s call for an unconditional ceasefire.

“It is the government which has waged a war against us and it is for the government to end it now. Let the government hold fire and we shall follow suit,” Shahidullah Shahid was quoted as saying.

The peace process faced a deadlock after the TTP Feb 16 killed 23 security personnel, who had been captured in 2010. The TTP had claimed that they killed the security personnel as revenge for what it called “extra-judicial killing” of its detained activists.

Two days later the government committee formed to hold the peace talks with the TTP met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and expressed it inability to carry on the peace talks.

The government committee said the talks could not progress without any concrete steps and also asked the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to unconditionally cease all violent activities without any delay, reported Dawn online.

According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister House, the government committee briefed Sharif Feb 18 and told him that, during the 13-day talks, several people were killed in terrorist attacks.

The committee said the talks were progressing satisfactorily until the Taliban-claimed responsibility for a blast Feb 13 that targeted a police bus near Razzaqabad in Karachi

The committee had sought an explanation from the TTP but before that could be given, the militant group killed the 23 security personnel whom they had captured.