Pakistan interior minister defends talks with banned terror group TTP

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Pakistan’s Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid has defended the government’s move to hold talks with banned terror group Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for “reconciliation”, saying the negotiations are for “good Taliban”.

Rashid’s remarks came after Prime Minister Imran Khan in an interview with Turkish government-owned TRT World news channel revealed that his government was in talks with the TTP with the help of the Taliban in Afghanistan, drawing criticism from politicians and victims of terrorism.

The TTP, commonly known as the Pakistani Taliban, is a banned terrorist organisation based along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Defending the government’s move, the minister said the offer was not for militants who were responsible for bloodshed in the country, including the December 2014 massacre in the Army Public School (APS) in Peshawar which left over 150 people dead, Dawn newspaper reported.

“We know very well who’s good and who’s bad. Anyone who thinks we are not aware of that, he’s mistaken, he doesn’t have sense,” he said.

The offer of talks was only for ‘good Taliban’ and negotiations on this were taking place at the “highest-level,” he said.

He maintained that it was not appropriate to fight with those who have surrendered to adopt peaceful lives.

“The case of those who were involved in incidents like the APS is different. And the case of those who left the country for different reasons is different,” he said on Friday while responding to a question about the merit and mechanism of talks with the TTP.

“We are not surrendering to anyone and this process is at a very early phase. No one needs to jump to conclusions at this stage.”

Prime Minister Khan on Friday offered amnesty to the TTP provided the militant organisation lay down arms, disclosing that the government was holding talks with some groups of the outfit seeking reconciliation.

The disclosure attracted a strong reaction, mainly from the opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which questioned the move to hold negotiations with the TTP without taking Parliament into confidence, arguing that it would only add to the pain and grief of the families of the martyrs.

The TTP has been involved in various attacks in Pakistan for more than a decade which killed thousands of people.

The government is now trying to use the influence of the Afghan Taliban over the TTP to reach a peace deal and end violence.

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