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Pakistan ‘ready’ to release several militants in anticipation of peace deal with TTP

Pakistan has reportedly agreed to release several militants and the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) will declare a ceasefire in return.

The development comes amid reports of a positive development in talks between the Pakistani government and Afghanistan-based Pakistani Taliban. 

Sources say that Pakistan has reportedly agreed to free several prisoners in the first phase that would encourage the Taliban militants to declare a country-wide ceasefire.

“The prisoners were supposed to be freed on November 1 this year but then there were some technical issues that delayed the release process. Then they were required to be freed on November 4 but again it didn’t happen due to some reasons,” says one of the two sources privy to the negotiations.

The source said some of the prisoners including top Taliban leaders in Swat, Mehmood Khan and Muslim Khan, were taken to Afghanistan for their likely release. Muslim Khan was a spokesman for the Swat Taliban. He (Muslim Khan) and Mehmood Khan as well as some senior Taliban leaders were invited to a meeting by the security officials in 2009 in Swat but then they were returned.

There were also reports that Maulvi Omar, a former spokesman for the TTP, was in the first batch of prisoners supposed to be freed as a goodwill gesture.

Neither the Pakistani authorities nor the Taliban spokesman Mohammad Khurasani officially confirmed this development. However, Taliban sources said that some of the prisoners phoned their family members for the first time in 13 years and informed them about their safety.

Sources say the Pakistani Taliban had initially demanded release of five senior militant leaders so that they start trusting the Pakistan government and it’s seriousness in talks, but “Pakistani authorities themselves offered to [release] 102 prisoners, including the five important leaders so that the peace process could yield results.” 

According to sources, all prisoners had been collected from different prisons in Pakistan and taken to Miransha, the headquarters of North Waziristan, for their likely shifting to Khost in Afghanistan and handing over to the Afghan Taliban for their subsequent release.

Sources say, “None of the prisoners had been shifted to Afghanistan yet. They are still in Miranshah but can be taken any time across the border in Afghanistan.” Insiders say most of the hurdles to the peace process had been removed and the two sides had agreed on a future agenda.

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