A temporary cease-fire between the Pakistani government and the banned Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has entered into force as the two sides advance talks for a possible deal to end 14 years of conflict.
The one-month cease-fire with the TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, went into effect on November 9, just hours after it was announced.
Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said talks with the TTP were ongoing and the cease-fire could be extended depending on the progress of talks.
“The talks will focus on state sovereignty, national security, peace, social and economic stability in the areas concerned,” Chaudhry said on November 8.
Chaudhry added that Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers played a role in facilitating the talks.
No further details about the talks were provided.
The TTP is a separate militant group from the Afghan Taliban, which toppled the Western-backed government in Kabul in mid-August.
However, Pakistan’s militant groups are often interlinked with those across the border in Afghanistan and the TTP follows the same hard-line Sunni Islam as its Afghan counterparts.
In a statement, TTP spokesman Muhammad Khurasani confirmed the cease-fire beginning on November 9 will remain in place until December 9, during which both sides will form a committee to continue talks.
He said both sides will adhere to the cease-fire and the Afghan Taliban was helping to mediate.
The development comes a little over a month after Prime Minister Imran Khan said the government was holding talks with factions of the Pakistani Taliban to end years of militancy.
"There are different groups which form the TTP and some of them want to talk to our government for peace. So, we are in talks with them. It’s a reconciliation process," Khan told Turkish television channel TRT World on October 1.
Tens of thousands of Pakistani civilians and security forces have been killed by TTP bombings, suicide attacks, and gun fights in a grinding conflict that raised mixed emotions about the prospect of peace with the notorious militant group. Some Pakistani officials have accused the TTP of playing a role in the 2007 assassination of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) leader and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the opposition PPP and son of the slain former prime minister, denounced the government for not informing parliament about details of the talks with the TTP.
He said the TTP had killed soldiers and political leaders and was behind a 2014 assault on a military-run school in Peshawar, near the Afghan border, which killed at least 150 people, most of them children.
“Who are they (the government) to decide on begging the TTP for talks and unilaterally engage the TTP?” he said. “Any policy without the approval of the parliament will have no legitimacy.”
In an editorial published in Dawn newspaper, the outlet questioned why details of such significant talks have been “shrouded in mystery.”
“This is too grave a matter to be left to unilateral executive decision-making,” Dawn wrote in the editorial. “The people of Pakistan are major stakeholders in this debate -- having borne the brunt of the TTP’s militancy -- and they must have their say in the final decision.”