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Pakistan denies reports of prisoner swap ahead of talks with Taliban

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The Pakistan Army has denied western media reports of a prisoner swap ahead of talks with the Taliban.

The western media reported Wednesday that the Pakistan army and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) exchanged prisoners. The report stated that the exchange included six TTP militants and two paramilitary Frontier Corps soldiers.

The swap reportedly occurred in the Shawal area of the South Waziristan tribal region. The militants were subsequently taken to neighboring North Waziristan, the country's main Taliban sanctuary.

However, immediately Pakistan Army denied the reports. The Inter-Services Public Relations said neither FC soldiers nor militants had been released.

Despite the denial by Pakistan's military public affairs office, the Taliban commanders provided the names of the militants who were freed and said the two paramilitary soldiers released were kidnapped by the Taliban in southwest Balochistan province in March 2012.

The purported release occurred only days after Pakistan's main political parties endorsed peace negotiations with the Taliban and their allies Monday as the best way to end a decade-long insurgency that has killed thousands of people.

APC Decision

Pakistan's political leadership Monday decided to hold peace talks with Pakistani Taliban who have been battling the armed forces in different parts of the northern territories along Pak-Afghan border.

Alluding to the US, which has been unhappy with previous peace deals between Pakistan government and the Taliban, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the participants of an all-party conference: "The decision to hold talks with Taliban is our own. No one should have any objection to that."

The all-party conference was called by Sharif in hopes of reaching national consensus on how to deal with the issue of militancy and terrorism.

The meeting was attended by all major parties of   Pakistan, including the two mainstream religious parties -- Jamat-e-Islami and Jamiat Ulema Islam -- which had previously offered to mediate between the government and the militants.

Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Director General of the Inter-Services Intelligence Lt Gen Zaheerul Islam briefed politicians on the military operations in the tribal region.

After day-long deliberations, participants issued a six-point joint communiquà , the first point being the decision by the country's political and military leadership to hold long-awaited peace talks with local Taliban.

The resolution asked the federal government to "initiate the dialogue with all stakeholders forthwith and to take all necessary steps as it may deem fit, including development of an appropriate mechanism and identification of interlocutors".

Tellingly, there was no mention of the Tehrik-e-Talban Pakistan (TTP) or any other militant group active in the tribal region. Instead, it said: "The process should be as inclusive as possible, with full participation of the government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and other stakeholders. The "guiding principles' for talks should be respect for local customs and traditions, values and religious beliefs and the creation of an environment which brings peace and tranquility to the region."

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Abdus-Sattar Ghazali Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Author and journalist. Author of Islamic Pakistan: Illusions & Reality; Islam in the Post-Cold War Era; Islam & Modernism; Islam & Muslims in the Post-9/11 America. Currently working as free lance journalist. Executive Editor of American (more...)
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