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Post-ceasefire strategy: Govt ponders reconfiguring peace committee

Post-ceasefire strategy: Govt ponders reconfiguring peace committee



ISLAMABAD: 

The government is considering reconstituting its four-member negotiating committee in a bid to make the nascent peace process more ‘effective and result-oriented,’ The Express Tribune has learnt.

The revamp was discussed after the committee members met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday and handed him a set of proposals related to peace efforts.

Although there is no official word on the actual proposals, a committee member said that he and his colleagues have unanimously suggested that the prime minister induct politicians and senior army officials into the committee.

“There is a general impression that the government committee is toothless,” the member told The Express Tribune on condition of anonymity. “It is important that all stakeholders directly take part in the dialogue process in order to dispel this impression.”

One of the proposals seeks the inclusion of Taliban Shura members in the Taliban intermediary committee, which is currently being represented by prominent religious figures Maulana Samiul Haq, Prof. Mohammad Ibrahim Khan and Maulana Yousaf Shah.

“We have achieved the first objective,” said the member while referring to the announcement of a ceasefire by the Taliban. “Now we need to discuss more substantive issues, which can only be possible if all key players sit across the table,” he argued.

The new proposals were finalised during a meeting of the government committee to discuss the strategy for future course of action in the wake of a ceasefire declared by both sides.

The meeting was attended by Iran Siddiqi, the government committee’s coordinator and other members Major (retd) Mohammad Aamir, former ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand and senior journalist Rahimullah Yousafzai.

According to an official statement, the committee reviewed the situation following the ceasefire announced by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

It also discussed the implications of the recent terrorist attacks in Islamabad’s district courts and Khyber Agency. Despite the ceasefire, they said, such ‘unfortunate incidents’ will undermine the negotiation process.

When contacted, Siddiqi confirmed that the government committee did propose certain steps to expedite efforts to strike a deal with the Taliban. He, however, would not provide the details. He said now it was up to the prime minister to accept those suggestions.

Reports were in the air that some committee members were not happy with the ongoing process and wanted certain changes to achieve tangible results.

Sources said the suggestion to seek the direct involvement of army in the negotiation process was ‘tricky’ as the security establishment has so far shown unwillingness to agree on such a proposal.

In the past, the Taliban intermarries had sought face-to-face talks with army chief General Raheel Sharif and ISI’s Director General Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam to seek what they called ‘clarification’ on some issues.

It is unclear yet when the prime minister will take a final decision on the new suggestions. In the meanwhile, the government committee is likely to meet the Taliban intermediaries over the next couple of days to discuss how to take the fragile peace process forward.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 5th, 2014.