New Delhi: The Imran Khan government in Pakistan has agreed to release 20 Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) terrorist cadres as the first step towards reaching a ceasefire agreement between the Pakistan government and the TTP, sources present on the ground and aware of the developments, told The Sunday Guardian. The ceasefire terms were dictated by the TTP leadership, the majority of which were agreed to by Imran Khan, Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and relevant generals at GHQ, Rawalpindi.

In the next step, the Pakistan military will release at least 100 more TTP cadres and commanders which will lead to the extension of the ceasefire. Among those who are going to be released in the second lot include senior TTP leaders such as Latif Ullah Mehsud who was arrested in a joint operation by the now defunct spy agency of Afghanistan, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the NATO army in October 2013 after which he was handed to the Pakistan Army in December 2014

Other senior TTP cadre whose names have been finalized for release are Maulana Umar, Hazi Muslim Khan and Commander Mehmood. Apart from the release of its cadre, which has been agreed to by the Khan government, the TTP is demanding “compensation” in monetary terms for the losses to life and properties that its cadre suffered. TTP is also seeking the handing over of the administration of certain areas in FATA region to the TTP cadre so that Shariah law can be imposed there.

In return of the release of its cadre, the TTP has proposed a one-month ceasefire that will be extended if the Khan government cuts down on the military exer cise against the TTP cadre, allows them to come back and peacefully exist in their traditional areas in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

This is not the first time that the Pakistan government and the TTP have agreed to a ceasefire. In March 2014, a similar agreement was reached. However, it could not last long as the Pakistan army launched a massive operation in June 2014 as a result of which the TTP cadre fled to Afghanistan.

The long-term plan of the Pakistan army is to bring back the TTP into the “mainstream”, ensure that their arms are taken away, thereby making them harmless and then take “necessary action” against the top leadership to ensure that the TTP does not renege on its promise or breaks the ceasefire in the coming days.

According to data compiled by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based research organisation, the TTP carried out 95 attacks in 2020 killing 140 people. In 2021, it had carried out 44 attacks in the first six months of the year. From July, however, coinciding with the resurgence of Taliban towards Kabul, the TTP increased their activity. From July until September, the group carried out another 44 attacks, claiming 73 lives, more than 90% of whom were Pakistan military personnel.

The present ceasefire was brokered in a series of meetings that were held in Khost city of Afghanistan, which is the stronghold of Afghanistan interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also a global designated terrorist.

The representatives of TTP and Pakistan Army, apart from Haqqani took part in these meetings. Sources also said that Haqqani prevailed over the TTP leadership to either leave Afghanistan or arrive at a peaceful resolution with the Pakistan Army.

This development is the first public acceptance of the supposed multiple covert agreements between the Taliban leadership and the Pakistan government. Incidentally, the Pakistan Foreign Minister and National Security Advisor had in November 2020 distributed multiple dossiers to countries across the world “showing” how the TTP was working as per the directions of the NDS and India’s external intelligence agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW).

This is not the first time that Khan has reached out to the TTP leadership seeking reconciliation. In an interaction with this newspaper in April 2020, former senior TTP commander Ehsanullah Ehsan had confirmed that Khan had written at least two letters to the then TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, in 2011 and 2012, seeking permission to do political rallies in South Waziristan, Pakistan. Mehsud was later killed in a drone strike in November 2013.

Ehsan had further revealed to this newspaper in November 2020 that Sirajuddin Haqqani, the head of the Haqqani Network, was meeting and negotiating with TTP head Muftti Noor Wali Mehsud at the request of General Qamar Javed Bajwa (Pakistan Army chief) and General Faiz Hameed (outgoing chief of ISI).