Pakistani officials announced Monday that the government and the outlawed militant alliance known as the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had agreed on a “complete cease-fire” as the two sides negotiate an end to years of militancy in the country.
Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry made the disclosure while speaking to state-run television. He said the tentative truce "would be extendable, keeping in view the progress of negotiations."
Chaudhry stressed the dialogue with the TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, was being held "strictly in line with the constitution and the law of Pakistan."
The peace process is taking place at an undisclosed location in Afghanistan, and Chaudhry said the neighboring country’s interim Taliban government has “facilitated these talks.” He did not share further details.
A spokesman for the TTP confirmed it has agreed to a one-month cease-fire with the government starting November 9 and that talks between the two sides are continuing.
“It is necessary that both sides observe the cease-fire,” said Mohammad Khorasani. He added that the Afghan Taliban “is filling the role of mediator … in the current negotiations process.”
Pakistani officials privy to the negotiations said the tentative truce requires that the militant group halt attacks across the country in return for the release of an unknown number of TTP prisoners "as part of confidence-building measures” to move the peace process forward.
Last month in a television interview, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan revealed for the first time that his government had been engaged in talks with the TTP, saying Afghanistan was hosting the process and Taliban rulers there were acting as mediators.
Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani of the Taliban's interim government in Afghanistan, is acting as a mediator in Pakistan's peace talks with the TTP. He heads the notorious Haqqani network of militants designated as a global terrorist by the United States. Haqqani is wanted by the U.S. and carries a bounty of $10 million for information leading to his arrest.
The Afghan Taliban interior minister allegedly maintains ties with the Pakistani spy agency and the TTP, which Washington and the United Nations have designated as a global terrorist group.
Tens of thousands of Pakistanis, including security forces, have died in terrorist attacks that the Pakistani Taliban have claimed since the group emerged in 2007.
Failed talks with the TTP in the past prompted Pakistan to launch counter-militancy offensives against the group's strongholds near the Afghan border in 2014, killing several thousand militants and forcing others to flee across the border into Afghanistan.
While security measures reduced militant violence in Pakistan for several years, the country has witnessed a resurgence of TTP attacks since the start of 2021. The attacks have killed and injured hundreds of security forces.
Ban on TLP lifted
Separately, a radical Islamic party in Pakistan called off weeks of violent street protests Monday a day after the government removed the group from a list of proscribed organizations.
The government argued in a statement issued late on Sunday the delisting of the Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan (TLP), part of a deal that the two sides said was in the “national interest.”
The deal with the TLP came after seven police officers were killed in clashes during the protest that had originated last month from the eastern city of Lahore with a goal of marching on the capital, Islamabad.
The TLP was protesting the detention of its leader, arrested in April when the group was outlawed by authorities, and demanding the expulsion of the French ambassador over publication of anti-Islamic caricatures in a French magazine.
The ultraconservative party in recent years has staged a series of street protests, disrupting public life.
"The federal government is pleased to remove the name of the Tehrik-e-Labaik Pakistan as a proscribed organization," the government said in a notification. It added that the decision was made after assurances from the group that it would abide by the law.
Hundreds of TLP supporters were also released from police detention earlier this month as part of the deal. Party leader Saad Rizvi remains in detention.
The TLP launched a nationwide campaign in Pakistan against France after Paris-based satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo republished cartoons last year depicting the Prophet Muhammad, an act that Muslims deemed blasphemous.