The story behind Saudi help in negotiations with TTP
Sources have disclosed that Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif requested the Saudi foreign minister to use his country’s ‘good offices’ in persuading the TTP and its affiliates to come to the negotiating table. In return Pakistan offered to support the Saudi stance on Syria.
According to a story in express tribune, a government official who was familiar with the negotiations held between Pak and Saudi leadership pointed out that the government believes Saudi Arabia could use its ‘clout’ over some of the TTP affiliates for an agreement.
In January, the foreign office had stated that “Riyadh was not currently brokering a peace deal between the Pakistan government and Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but kept the option of a future Saudi role open”.
Jan Achakzai, a spokesperson for the JUI-F chief (a religious party which is an ally of PML N government), had also stated that as Saudi Arabia was a friend of Pakistan it could help the country’s peace efforts.
A close look at the dates of visit of Pakistani political and military leadership to Saudi Arabia, the visit of Saudis to Pakistan and the dates of ceasefire by Pakistani Taliban clearly show proximity. Both Rehman and Samiul Haq, who are considered close to the Saudi rulers, are intensifying efforts to bring the TTP to the negotiating table as most of the militants studied at their seminaries.
Saudi Arabia can broker a peace deal between government and Taliban due to its ‘financial leverage’ over the Taliban. Money matters a lot for these groups (TTP) and most of it comes from Saudi Arabia. If Saudi government stops transfer of funds to madrassas (religious schools) where most of TTP men are trained, Taliban will immediately be pushed in a weak corner.
Saudi Arabia previously has also played a role in start of negotiations with Afghan Taliban and Karzai government.
A senior Afghan government official had told the BBC: "Even if the Taliban office is established in Qatar, we will obviously pursue other efforts in the region, including Saudi Arabia and Turkey."
He continued: "Saudi Arabia has played an important role in the past. We value that and look forward to continued support and contact with Saudi Arabia in continuing the peace process."
So, it is not shocking to know that their help was sought by Pakistani government to broker a peace deal too. However, Saudi Arabia has its own interests in the region and only time will tell about how much they are willing to do to bring peace in Pakistan.