As the government makes its fourth overture to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in a series of peace accords and talks since 2004, Mir Ali in North Waziristan is tipped to be the likely venue for face-to-face talks.
The government, then led by former president Pervez Musharraf, first signed a peace pact – Shakai peace pact – in 2004 with Nek Muhammad Wazir of the Taliban. The government was represented former corps commander General Safadar at the time and the accord signed in a seminary. Wazir was killed in a drone strike in June 2004.
The Taliban were approached once more in February 2005, as the government reached out to Baitullah Mehsud. The agreement was signed once again by General Safdar at a primary school in Sararogha. Mehsud was also targeted in a US drone strike in August 2009.
In 2008, representatives of the ANP-led provincial government, including former information minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain and Afrasiyab Khattak, signed the Swat agreement with the Taliban in May.
There have also been a number of written and unwritten peace deals over the years, such as the ones negotiated with the North Waziristan-based commander Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Faqir Muhammad in Bajaur Agency after the August 2008 military operation.
The initial peace agreements signed by security officials were mostly tribe-based accords, involving the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe of South Waziristan and the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, also from the same tribe.
A security official said the TTP is keen to hold talks in Mir Ali as the area is a stronghold, even in the presence of security forces. “The Taliban were reluctant to hold talks in the settled parts of Pakistan,” he said.
Security and Defence Analyst Brigadier (Retd) Mehmood Shah told The Express Tribune that the Taliban’s strategy encompasses an engagement with the Pakistan government until the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. “These militant groups have the backing of al Qaeda groups on this strategy in order to avoid any military operation,” Shah said.
“The government is making the effort because terrorism has caused immense damage to this country in all walks of life,” he said, adding that the Taliban are likely to be asked to dismantle all the networks involved in attacks.