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Pakistan’s PM Says Peace Talks Underway With Pakistani Taliban

In this image taken from video provided by U.N. Web TV, Imran Khan, prime minister of Pakistan, remotely addresses the 76th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Sept. 24, 2021, at U.N. headquarters in New York City.

Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, has said his government is engaged in peace talks with “some groups” of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, an alliance of outlawed militant groups waging terrorist attacks in the country.

Khan told TRT World, a Turkish state-owned broadcaster, the talks with the militants are taking place in Afghanistan and the new Taliban rulers of the neighboring country are helping in the process.

“There are different groups which form the Pakistani Taliban or TTP, yes, so we are in talks with some of them on a reconciliation process,” Khan said in a portion of the interview the Turkish network released Friday. The full interview will be aired Saturday.

The Pakistani prime minister said the aim of the discussions with TTP groups is to convince the militants to lay down their arms “and then we forgive them and they can become normal citizens.”

“The talks are taking place in Afghanistan, so in that sense yes,” Khan noted when asked if the Afghan Taliban were helping in the process.

A spokesman for the ruling Taliban in Kabul, when contacted by VOA for a reaction to Khan’s assertions, said he would try to get one but sent no further response.

Prime Minister Khan said he is expecting the talks will produce the desired outcome, insisting he believes there is no military solution to tackle the militancy challenge and “the political dialogue is the way ahead.”

“We might not reach some sort of a conclusion in the end, a settlement, but we are talking,” he said.

Khan’s disclosure comes as the TTP has intensified attacks against Pakistani security forces and other targets in recent weeks. Islamabad says leaders and commanders of the banned group use sanctuaries in Afghanistan to orchestrate cross-border attacks.

The United States and the United Nations have both designated the TTP as a terrorist organization.

The Afghan Taliban is under pressure from the U.S. and other countries to prevent transnational terrorist groups from using Afghan soil for external attacks.

Pakistan’s traditionally close ties with the Afghan Taliban might have generated hopes the Islamist group would help rein in TTP cross-border violent activities from their Afghan hideouts. But critics say those expectations could be misplaced, citing the ideological closeness between the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban.

Just before the Taliban returned to power in Kabul in August, their chief, Hibatullah Akhundzada, set up a three-member high-powered commission to persuade TTP members to stop violence against Pakistan and return to their homes across the border to live peacefully, VOA had learned from highly placed official sources in Islamabad.

However, the Taliban have not confirmed the commission’s formation and TTP attacks have continued against Pakistani forces.