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Pakistan names team to hold peace talks with Taliban

By       Message Abdus-Sattar Ghazali       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink

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Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mian Nawaz Sharif, has announced that his government would pursue peace talks with Taliban militants despite a recent spate of attacks. Addressing a session of the National Assembly, on Wednesday, Nawaz Sharif   said  "Since the other side has shown intent to negotiate, we also wish to give peace yet another chance."

Nawaz Sharif's offer came days after the Taliban spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement that Taliban is ready to hold talks with Pakistan if it provides favorable atmosphere for the process. He said the government was accusing the Tehrkik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) of being reluctant to join a dialogue while also talking about operations against the militants.

It may be recalled that the government had established contacts with the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) last year. The TTP proposed seven names for peace talks. However, the process came to a halt after a US drone attack killed the Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud on Nov 1, 2013.

Nawaz Sharif has also announced the constitution of a four-member team   to holds talks with the Taliban. The includes his Advisor on National Affairs, Irfan Siddique, veteran journalist from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Rahimullah Yusufzai, former ambassador and expert on Afghanistan affairs Rustam Shah Mohmand and former ISI official Major Amir Shah.  

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He said that he would personally supervise the performance of the committee.

Rahimullah Yusufzai told news agency AFP: "Our role will be of facilitators and we will pave the way for negotiations between the government and the Taliban." But he cautioned: "I am not attaching any expectations with the process right now because we are not aware of our mandate and other details, including the timeframe that will be given to the committee."

Another member of the committee, Rustam Shah, said: "It is difficult to have an optimistic view about any success because of deep mistrust on both sides." "The success of the negotiations will depend on how much support the government gives to the committee and how wide its mandate is."

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Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told the parliamentarians that peace was not a choice but the ultimate destination at which the government wanted to arrive and it would achieve it at all costs. He further said that he agreed with the proposals of opposition leaders to set a time-frame for dialogue and make it open and transparent.

He called on the Taliban to observe a ceasefire.

The Daily Dawn said Nawaz Sharif has for long supported talks as the best way to end the years of fighting with the Pakistani Taliban. But after a spate of attacks in January, he has been under pressure to take steps to bring the country's violence under control. An explosion at an army garrison in the northwestern town of Bannu on January 19 killed at least 22 soldiers and wounded 30 others. A day later, a suicide bombing near Pakistani army headquarters in Rawalpindi killed 13 people including six soldiers.

On January 21, as a reprisal Pakistan air force jets bombarded suspected militant hideouts in North Waziristan killing 40 people. It was the first time the air force has resorted to fighter jets in the volatile region since it struck a ceasefire agreement with local Taliban chiefs in 2007.

Pakistani security officials claimed that 40 militants were killed. However, the Daily Times newspaper said it could not verify the accounts independently or determine whether the dead were militants or civilians. At least six thousand families have moved out of North Waziristan after the government forces began retaliating to the militant attacks on national security installations, according to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government officials.  

Talliban call shura meeting

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The TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said that it has convened a meeting of its Shura to seriously discuss the government's decision of holding talks trough a committee.

  "We have taken government's decision seriously and will inform it about our stance after discussing in Shura meeting within few days," he was quoted as saying.   Shahid said there was no truth in the reports that TTP chief Mullah Fazlullah was opposing talks. He said bringing peace was not difficult if politics of betrayal and accusations were kept out of talk process.

Interestingly, the government's talks offer came a week after the TTP issued a fatwa against the media, declaring it a "party" to the conflict in the country, and drawn up a hit-list of journalists and publishers.

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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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