Peace dialogue: Taliban deny contact with govt

Information minister says govt committed.

Our Correspondents November 02, 2013
Information minister says govt committed. PHOTO: EXPRESS/ FILE


The proscribed umbrella of dozens of militant groups, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), denied any contact with the government a day after the prime minister revealed that the dialogue process was already under way.

The Nawaz Sharif government has been edging towards peace talks to end the TTP’s bloody six-year-old insurgency, which has killed and maimed thousands of people, mostly civilians.

On Thursday, Nawaz told British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg that his administration could not wait and see innocent people and law enforcers being killed on the streets.

However, the TTP central spokesperson said on Friday there had been no overtures. “No one has yet contacted us. The government is making announcements only by the media, no peace talks have yet been started,” Shahidullah Shahid told journalists in a phone call from an undisclosed location. “The beginning of peace talks means sitting at a table and discussing issues, no such thing has yet happened.”

Shahid cited mistrust between the TTP and the government as a reason for the delay in talks.

“In the past, the Pakistani government reneged on several agreements. We’ll trust the government only if it withdraws all troops from the tribal belt and releases all Taliban prisoners,” he said, calling the two steps preconditions for peace talks.

In Islamabad, the information minister reiterated that there should be no ambiguity about the government’s intentions.

“The decision to pursue dialogue was taken by an all-party conference (APC). And we [the government] are committed to implementing the APC decision. No one should doubt the government’s intentions.” Senator Pervaiz Rasheed told journalists outside the Parliament House.

Nonetheless, he admitted that the embryonic process hit roadblocks in recent weeks which, according to him, have been cleared. “It’s a complicated process. We took time [in initiating dialogue] because we wanted to take everyone on board. Today, we all are on the same page,” he said.

Senator Rasheed said that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was the focal person for dialogue who would soon brief the media on the process. “The government is pursuing the dialogue option in national interest,” he said and advised the media to report responsibly lest their reporting created ill-will before the start of the process.

Credible sources, meanwhile, said the government has finalised the makeup of a team that would negotiate with the Taliban. “The team comprises government officials, politicians, clerics, intellectuals and defence experts,” one source told The Express Tribune.

Sources added that formal talks were expected within a couple of weeks. And during the talks, both sides would observe an unannounced ceasefire.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 2nd, 2013.


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