Pakistani Taliban extend truce for further talks with government

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ISLAMABAD — The Pakistani Taliban said Wednesday they will extend a ceasefire with the government until May 30, after the two sides held an initial round of talks organized by the Afghan Taliban in neighboring Afghanistan.

The militant group’s spokesman, Mohammad Khurasani, said talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the Islamabad government were being facilitated by Afghanistan’s new Taliban rulers.

The Taliban in Kabul confirmed the talks and the extension of the ceasefire. Their spokesman, Bilal Karimi, said that they are doing everything possible for the continuation and success of the negotiations.

The Pakistani militant group, known as Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan or TTP, is separate from but allied with Afghanistan’s Taliban, who seized power in their country last August.

The TTP has long fought for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in Pakistan, the release of its members from government custody, and a reduction in the military presence in the country’s tribal regions. They have also been emboldened by the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan and in recent months have stepped up attacks on government forces.

Khurasani, the TTP spokesman, said the group had agreed to extend the ceasefire, which began on May 10, at the request of a delegation of Pakistani tribal elders who met separately with the TTP this week. He did not provide further details.

It was unclear who was representing the TTP or the Pakistani government in the talks. There was also no immediate comment from the Pakistani military or government, although officials earlier acknowledged sending a delegation to Kabul for talks with the TTP.

Pakistani analyst Imtiaz Gul said Islamabad had demanded firm action from the Taliban in Kabul to prevent TTP militants from using Afghan territory to carry out cross-border attacks against Pakistan, including threatening counter-attacks in Afghanistan and “pursuit by armed forces.” Pakistani security.

“These talks are the result of strong messages from the highest level from Pakistan, which were conveyed to the Afghan Taliban” following an increase in cross-border attacks by the TTP against Pakistani troops, he said.

Last month, Pakistan carried out airstrikes in Afghanistan, killing dozens of civilians, according to witnesses. The attacks escalated dramatically, followed by Pakistani calls for the Taliban to stop harboring the militants.

The TTP held similar talks with Islamabad last November at the request of the Afghan Taliban. Those talks led to a month-long ceasefire and further talks with then-Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government, but the truce was not extended at that point and violence eventually resumed.

TTP has been behind numerous attacks against Pakistani security forces and civilians over the past 15 years. A faction of the militant group was also behind a deadly 2014 attack on an army-run school in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed 147 people, mostly schoolchildren.

Islamabad wants Kabul to act against militants using Afghan territory to carry out attacks inside Pakistan. Before the Taliban took power, Islamabad and Kabul often traded blame, accusing each other of harboring militants.

Pakistan now says it has completed 93% construction of a fence along the border with Afghanistan to prevent cross-border militant attacks.

Associated Press reporter Rahim Faiez in Islamabad contributed to this report.

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