ISLAMABAD: The 19 noncombatant Taliban, freed by the government, do not figure in the list furnished by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to the official negotiators although the government hopes their release will be seen as a goodwill gesture by the outfit, it is reliably learnt.
“The release of these Taliban, involved in petty crimes, which was directed by the interior ministry, will reinforce the conducive atmosphere between the TTP and the government, which was created before and after the first direct round of negotiations,” said a senior official.
The Taliban detainees, he said, whom the TTP wants to be released are in the custody of security agencies, which have been fighting against terrorism.
However, the official said that the instant release was approved by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan with a view that it would send a positive signal to the TTP. “It is a good move to start with.”
Meanwhile, the next government strategy and steps in relation to taking the dialogue process forward and give a fillip to it will transpire yesterday when the interior minister will chair a joint meeting of the Taliban intermediaries and the government committee of interlocutors.
The official said it would be decided where and when the next round of direct parleys between the government body and the TTP political council members would be held and what would be on the table for discussion.
He said that after the release of 19 Taliban, the matter of freeing kidnapped Prof Ajmal, Shahbaz Taseer and Ali Haider Gilani, who are in the custody of the Taliban, could be taken up with the TTP. “It is time for the Taliban to give an encouraging matching response.”
The source said that although the interior minister was sincerely working with the key agencies for the release of some Taliban, who were included in the list furnished by the TTP, his job has become extremely difficult and complicated after bad blood has been created between the government and the security establishment on the issue of retired General Pervez Musharraf.
“The government has been bogged down in the Musharraf saga for the past few days as several people have made it hostage on this very issue forcing it to take a decision that has generated problems,” the official said.
“For everybody, the peace process must be much more important than Musharraf’s staying in Pakistan or going abroad.”
However, he cited umpteen examples to establish that a number of leading politicians including Benazir Bhutto went abroad when criminal cases were in progress in Pakistan against them.