Islamabad: The Shehbaz Sharif government is preparing a ‘contingency plan’ to deal with the potential resurgence of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after reports suggested the terrorist outfit was trying to make a comeback.
On Thursday, Defence Minister Khawaja Asif told the media that the government was aware of the reports about the TTP regrouping in Swat district and that the relevant authorities were in constant touch with Afghanistan on this matter.
Although the government has been holding talks with the TTP for months to broker some kind of a deal, prospects of such an agreement are grim, sources familiar with the development told The Express Tribune on Thursday.
With reports of some Taliban fighters being seen in the Swat valley, the authorities concerned are preparing a ‘contingency plan’ to deal with the militant threat in case talks with the TTP collapse.
Authorities have not closed the window of talks with the TTP, they are at the same time ready to deal with any eventuality.
Sources said the primary reason Pakistan entered into talks with the TTP was that the Afghan Taliban were reluctant to take any military action against the outfit, the express Tribune report added.
Instead, the interim Afghan Taliban government was keen on Pakistan and the TTP to resolve their differences through talks.
With the recent killing of al-Qaeda chief Aymen-Al-Zawahiri in Kabul, the Afghan Taliban government has now come under increased pressure to cut ties to terrorist groups.
Zawahiri’s killing has diminished the chances of the Taliban getting recognition in the foreseeable future. If the issue of the TTP remains unaddressed, the Taliban may antagonize Pakistan, which has been their main advocate for seeking legitimacy for the current government in Kabul.
Pakistan began negotiating with the TTP not out of choice but out of compulsion, according to the sources quoted by Express Tribune.
During one of the in-camera briefings given to the members of parliament, the military leadership had said talks were in an initial phase and any deal with the TTP would be strictly in accordance with the Constitution and law.
An oversight parliamentary committee was also set up to look into the negotiating process.
The peace talks began in October last year but picked up pace in April when there was a renewed push from the Afghan Taliban seeking a peace deal between Pakistan and the TTP.
A series of meetings with the TTP led to the indefinite ceasefire but differences on many contentious issues still persist.
One of the main stumbling blocks includes the TTP’s insistence on reversing the merger of erstwhile tribal areas with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
However, Pakistani negotiators term the demand as a red line as any changes have to be passed by the country’s parliament.