Have taken Taliban on board over TTP issue, says Sheikh Rasheed

Federal Minister for Interior Sheikh Rasheed said Tuesday that Pakistan has taken the Afghan Taliban on board over the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) issue, hoping that Afghanistan’s soil will not be used against Pakistan.

The interior minister was responding on  to reports of the release of key TTP commanders from jails in Afghanistan, as the Taliban took over the country.

Maulana Faqir Mohammad, the former deputy chief of the TTP, was also released as the Taliban took hold of the capital on Sunday.

“The outlawed TTP and Daesh militants are present in the mountainous ranges of Nooristan and Nighar,” he said. “We have taken the Taliban on-board over the TTP issue and told them that Pakistan will not allow its soil to be used against Afghanistan and it hopes Afghanistan won’t allow its soil to be used against Pakistan.”

When pressed further, the minister said he couldn’t disclose to the media what Pakistan has discussed with the Taliban.

“Previously, Pakistan was supporting the US due to which the TTP and the Taliban were on the same page. That is not the case now,” he noted.

No load of refugees on Pakistan’s border

In response to another question, the interior minister said Pakistan was not facing any refugee crisis or “load” on its border with Afghanistan, given the volatile situation in Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has completed 97-98% of the fencing around the Afghan border,” said Rasheed, adding that the border has been fenced even around the most hostile of terrains. “Our troops are manning the security check-posts along the border as well.”

The minister said that in the past, most of the migrants who slipped through the border to Pakistan were the Taliban or others who were frustrated with the Northern Alliance. He said that is not the case now.

Rasheed said a special cell had been formed in the interior ministry which was functioning 24 hours, issuing visas on an emergency basis for international diplomats and journalists who are stranded in Afghanistan.

He said previously, granting a visa took a process of four months as authorities had to conduct a background check with various security agencies.

“Now all [security agencies] are sitting on one table,” he said, adding that the process of granting a visa was much faster now.

The minister said Pakistan is conducting regular import and export trade along the Spin Boldak-Chaman border, adding that so far “everything is good”.

“We are prepared for every eventuality,” he said, however.

The interior minister said he would hold an important press conference tomorrow (Wednesday) to brief the nation about the government’s border management plan.

Taliban take control over Kabul

After months of fighting, the Afghan Taliban entered Kabul “from all sides”, a senior Interior Ministry official of the Afghan government had told Reuters, adding that there were some reports of sporadic gunfire around the city.

During Sunday, the government’s acting interior minister, Abdul Sattar Mirzakawal, said power would be handed over to a transitional administration. He had tweeted: “There won’t be an attack on the city, it is agreed that there will be a peaceful handover”.

However, two Taliban officials had told Reuters there would be no transitional government. The Taliban had said earlier it was waiting for the government to surrender peacefully.