ISLAMABAD: The Taliban, while reiterating their offer for peace talks, asked the government to come up with a “clear stance if it is sincere in pursuing dialogue”. A senior cabinet minister said the ruling party would discuss in its Monday’s (today) meeting whether it was a political statement from the Taliban or they have agreed to accept the country’s Constitution.
“The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has repeatedly made it clear that it is ready to have meaningful, durable and serious dialogue,” the group’s spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement on Sunday. “However, the government is issuing press statements only to mislead the people,” he said referring to news reports about a possible military offensive in tribal regions.
The government has launched a ‘baseless propaganda’ against the Taliban, accusing them of disfavouring dialogue, he added. The TTP is once again open to meaningful talks, he said. “However, the government will have to provide a conducive environment for negotiations.”
The spokesman said: “A war is again being imposed on the people of the tribal areas under baseless accusations of the Taliban refusing to talk. This is a war tactic and an easy way to appease the United States.”
He said that the government should come up with a clear approach if it was sincere in pursuing dialogue. He reiterated that they had been hopeful when emissaries of JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq and others met them with suggestions for peace talks. He added that they had given a ‘positive and encouraging response’ to the JUI-S chief’s emissary and all other delegations who met them for talks.
“We want to tell the people of Pakistan that the government is bent upon pushing the country into another dangerous war just to receive more dollars.”
Information minister retorts
If the Taliban had really given a positive response to Maulana Sami’s emissaries and were willing to talk, then why was there an upsurge in attacks against security forces last week, questioned Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid.
Responding to the TTP’s statement, he told the BBC Urdu that after attacking schools, security forces and places of worship over the past few weeks, now the Taliban wanted to have talks. “They have to explain the recent surge in attacks if they allegedly encouraged dialogue and even admit that they met with Maulana Sami’s emissary and other delegations,” he added.
However, this volte-face is significant and needs to be discussed in the parliamentary party meeting of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz on Monday (today), he said. Party’s leaders will discuss whether the Taliban are serious about pursuing dialogue, whether they are willing to accept the Constitution or the fresh offer is just a political statement.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 27th, 2014.