Pakistan government and Taliban considering peace talks

Taliban call emergency meeting in response to government proposals for fresh round of peace talks.

Pakistan government and Taliban considering peace talks
World Bulletin / News Desk

Pakistan's Taliban have called an emergency meeting of their consultative council to review the government's offer of a fresh round of peace talks between the two sides.
Earlier on Wednesday, Pakistan's Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, offered an olive branch to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) – an umbrella organisation for Taliban groups in Pakistan – saying he wanted to end the decade-long militancy which has killed thousands of Pakistanis. 

“I want to make it clear here that talks and terrorism cannot go together. We want peace at any cost, that’s why we want to give peace another chance," Sharif told Pakistan's National Assembly.

Sharif also announced the formation of a four-member committee to negotiate with TTP, which includes: Irfan Siddiqi, a foreign affairs advisor to Sharif; Major Mohammed Aamir, a former member of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI); Rahimullah Yousafzai, a senior journalist; and Rustum Shah Momind, the country's former Afghanistan ambassador. 

All the four members are believed to have some extent of influence over TTP. 

Shahidullah Shahid, the TTP's spokesperson, said the Shura (consultative council) will be discussing whether to enter into talks. 

"The meeting will decide to trust or not the committee members," said Shahidullah. “The Shura meeting will also evaluate as to whether the committee members have any mandate to hold talks with Taliban or it is another time-passing tactic in line with the past.”

He also rejected media reports that the Taliban's Shura stands divided over peace talks with the government.

“There is no division among the Taliban over peace talks. All Taliban groups are united under the leadership of [TTP chief] Mullah Fazlullah,” he said. 

Yousafzai told AA that he had earlier refused to join the peace committee but was convinced by the Prime Minister's insistence that he should take "responsibility for the country."

“We have to see why this [process] could not work out in past. This is very premature to talk about the possible results of our engagement in this process," he said.

Sharif first offered peace talks in his first address to the nation after assuming office in May 2013. Those talks were abruptly ended when a US drone strike killed TTP leader Hakeemullah Mehsud in November 2013.

TTP respond ended to Mehsud's death by suspending all contact with the government and launching a series of violent retributory attacks that have killed 45 soldiers and injured more than 100 throughout the country but especially in the North Waziristan region, on the border with Afghanistan, and its adjoining areas.

Some 22 soldiers were killed and dozens injured in a suicide attack on a security convoy in Bannu town, adjacent to North Waziristan on January 19. 

Pakistan's army retaliated the next day by bombarding North Waziristan. They claim to have killed 40 militants but thousands of civilians who have been forced to leave the region claim that many of those killed were civilians. 

Pakistan's political reaction to the move has been polarised, with right-wing parties in favour while those on the left have criticized Sharif's decision.

Bilal Bhutto Zardari, leader of the main opposition Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), tweeted his suggestion that Sharif was appeasing the Taliban: “I had considered Nawaz Sharif to be Winston Churchill but he has turned out to be [Neville] Chamberlain.”

Cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, whose Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) governs the north-western Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KP) province which borders Afghanistan and is worst-affected province by militancy, hailed the new development.

Khan, who is often criticised for his support for negotiations, also called for the Taliban to stop any attacks to create a productive environment for the talks. 

Güncelleme Tarihi: 29 Ocak 2014, 17:45