South Asia

Pakistani official: TTP sought control of former tribal areas

A high-ranking Pakistani official has countered the Taliban acting foreign minister’s assertion that Pakistan backed out of a deal with Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) at the last minute, revealing the group’s intention to control parts of the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

The disclosure came after a sideline discussion between Taliban Acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayyed at the Palestine Conference in Tehran last week. Muttaqi claimed most disputes between Pakistan and TTP had been settled in 2022, with disagreements over FATA’s merger remaining.

Muttaqi alleged Pakistan withdrew as an agreement was nearing finalization.

Quoted by Pakistan’s The Express Tribune, an official familiar with the matter said Muttaqi’s narrative lacked veracity. The official, whose name has not been disclosed by Express Tribune due to the sensitivity of the matter, has explained that the talks collapsed due to “unreasonable and unconstitutional” demands by the TTP.

The official said that under the guise of negotiations, TTP aimed to establish its own “empire” within the former tribal areas, with tacit support from the Taliban in Afghanistan. “Should we yield our territory to these terrorists? Absolutely not,” the official asserted, placing blame on the Taliban rule in Afghanistan for the current impasse in bilateral relations.

“One of the main demands of the TTP was to hand the FATA to them, and allow them to return to those areas, and roam there in groups, have the permission to carry weapons and have the TTP name associated with them. This was the issue from the beginning,” Mahmoud Jabir Khan, head of Sama TV in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said.

The stalled talks were also attributed to TTP’s continued attacks amid peace discussions. Pakistani officials now assert that the Afghan Taliban’s actions have led to a deadlock in bilateral relations.

“Welcoming terrorist groups and allowing them in Afghanistan not only destabilizes Afghanistan but also poses a regional threat,” said Wais Naseri, a political analyst.

Islamabad maintains it has furnished the Taliban with ample evidence of TTP members in Afghanistan but has only received promises in return.

“Pakistan remains dedicated to fostering peace in Afghanistan and continues to seek collaborative efforts, particularly in economic areas,” said Zahra Mumtaz Baloch, spokesperson for Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Meanwhile, Muttaqi emphasized significant headway in resolving Pakistan-TTP issues, asserting Islamabad’s withdrawal prevented a deal. These remarks were made during his conversation with Senator Sayyed in Tehran.

Islamabad’s policy shift now seeks to condition international engagement with the Taliban on suppressing the TTP.