• Militants think statements by negotiators are hindering dialogue initiative
• Two close aides of prime minister trying to ‘hijack the show’ for self-projection
Though the dialogue process between the negotiators of the banned Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government is yet to kick-off formally, the militant organisation has conveyed its displeasure to the government against an “unnecessary” media hype created by three members of the government’s negotiating team as according to the TTP, the statements by the negotiators were proving to be “impediments” in the dialogue process, Pakistan Today has learnt reliably.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had formed a four-member negotiating panel for peace talks with the TTP on Wednesday which included known columnist and special assistant to prime minister Irfan Siddiqui, veteran journalist Rahimullah Yousafzai, former diplomat Rustam Shah Mohmand and former ISI official Major (r) Amir.
TTP DISPLEASED WITH MEDIA HYPE
A well-placed source privy to the ongoing dialogue process told Pakistan Today that the TTP leadership has conveyed its displeasure and discomfort to the government over an “unnecessary media hype” by three members of the government’s negotiating team who they claimed were violating a proposal presented by the chief negotiator of the government to keep the talks process issue under wraps.
The source said that it had been agreed in principle between the government’s chief negotiator, Major (r) Amir and the TTP leadership that the dialogue process will be target-oriented, media contacts will be avoided and that the negotiating teams will sit face-to-face to deliberate upon the issues rather than talking through indirect channels.
“Giving dialogue another chance was an initiative chosen by the prime minister himself after five meetings with the relevant quarters and his chief negotiator who broke the ice between the government and the TTP leadership. It was also the government’s chief negotiator who had proposed to the TTP leadership to keep the dialogue process a ‘very low profile matter’ but the other three members of the panel named by the prime minister were creating an “unnecessary media hype” over the issue by conducting a series of interviews at all media outlets which itself is a violation of the pledge made by the government.”
The source said the TTP leadership thinks that the negotiators were aiming at personal projection out of the dialogue process which may become a major impediment for peace dialogue, adding that this tendency had alarmed the TTP cadres who thought that the government’s negotiators were not serious in making the talks successful.
The source added that the unnecessary statements by three committee members were ‘out of place’ as none of them had direct access to the TTP leadership.
“The TTP leadership said that when the chief negotiator between the government and the TTP was keeping a low profile and was avoiding media contacts, why those having secondary role in talks were using media for personal projection,” the source added.
The source said the TTP leadership was especially unhappy over comments by a member of the government’s negotiating panel, Rustam Shah Mohmand, who spoke about the possible demands of the militants.
Resultantly, the source added, the TTP leadership felt that they had been betrayed by the government and the media space was being captured by the government’s negotiators while the TTP was being neglected which reflected its weakness in talks.
“In a bid to regain focus of the media, the TTP spokesman contacted media persons on Thursday and put forth strong demands to the government to counter media speculations and notion that the TTP was left behind in media coverage and that the TTP was being submissive towards the government’s initiative”.
“Even the prime minister was displeased over the press conference conducted by his close aide, who is also a member of the negotiating team, who had asked the TTP to name its own panel for negotiations the very same day when the prime minister had announced the negotiating panel,” the source said. The source added that the same should have been conveyed via backchannel contacts which had been instrumental in convincing the prime minister to give peace another chance.
RACE BETWEEN TWO MINISTERS
A source in the government told Pakistan Today that in a desperate bid to “hijack the show”, a race had triggered between two close aides of the prime minister as a federal minister who had also assumed a lead role in the recent but failed dialogue process, had again tried to repeat the same trick but his effort was disrupted by a newly appointed colleague.
“The newly formed team was approached by the interior minister’s staff on Thursday and they were told that the minister had invited them for a lunch meeting on Friday. However, the close aide of the prime minister who is also the convener of the government’s panel for talks preempted this move by the interior minister. As a result, the negotiators were approached by the prime minister’s staff and were informed that they would now be hosted by the prime minister himself on a breakfast meeting on Friday, rather than the luncheon meeting arranged by the interior minister. The minister concerned was also asked to attend the meeting. Thus, the preemptive move by the prime minister’s aide has badly irked the interior minister,” the source concluded.