PESHAWAR: The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the banned conglomerate of militant groups blamed for most violent acts in the country, on Monday welcomed the government’s offer for peace talks with all insurgent groups.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said a day earlier that his administration was ready to hold negotiations with all militant groups, including the Haqqani network. “The TTP welcomes the prime minister’s offer,” Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, TTP’s deputy commander and commander-in-chief in Bajaur Agency, told The Express Tribune by phone from an undisclosed location. But he set two preconditions for dialogue: The government should reconsider its relationship with the United States and enforce Islamic sharia in the country.
Maulvi Faqir and other senior TTP cadres are believed to be hiding in the eastern Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan. And Islamabad has blamed militants led by Maulvi Faqir for the recent cross-border attacks on its security forces.
“We have always had serious doubts about Pakistan-US relations. The United States has never been sincere to Pakistan or Muslims in general,” he said.
Although Maulvi Faqir showed willingness for negotiations, he said that his group would not accept Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain as a negotiator. “Mian Iftikhar should not be part of any reconciliatory talks,” he added, identifying him as one of his group’s biggest enemies.
Maulvi Faqir said that his group believed in direct talks, and would not accept mediation. “We want direct talks with the government and not through intermediaries,” he added.
To a question, Maulvi Faqir said that his fighters were not battle-fatigued. “We will continue to fight till the establishment of an Islamic state. But if our demands are met and an Islamic justice system is established in Pakistan, which is our country, we will lay down our weapons because we are peace-loving people,” he said.
Interestingly, Maulvi Faqir told the BBC in an interview on Sunday that the TTP would not blindly support the Pakistani government, if the United States mounted a ground attack. He had also blamed Pakistan for playing a “double game” in Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2011.