Pakistan: Taliban welcomes peace talks
Since the beginning of 2013, the Pakistani Taliban have made several offers for talks with the government.
Islamabad: The Pakistani Taliban have welcomed a recommendation by major political parties for holding a dialogue with militants but said any talks would be incomplete without the participation or backing of the powerful military. The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led by Hakimullah Mehsud welcomed the proposal made by a conference of political parties on Thursday for talks with militants but said it was waiting for a positive response from the military.
"Our political shura (council) held a meeting and welcomed the recommendation of all the political parties regarding talks with Taliban. The political parties, by avoiding the word terrorism in their joint statement, gave a positive signal," said Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan. "But since the real power rests with the Pakistan Army, therefore we are waiting for a positive response from the military authorities," he said.
Any talks would be "deficient" without the participation of the army, Ihsan was quoted as saying by The News daily. The conference of political parties convened by the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman called for dialogue with the Taliban to usher in peace and stability in the restive tribal belt and other parts of the country.
The parties further backed a recommendation that the dialogue should be conducted by a "grand Jirga" of tribal elders. This was the second conference of political parties that has backed talks with the Taliban within a month.
On February 14, a conference organised by the Awami National Party emphasised the need to give priority to negotiations with the Taliban to establish peace. Since the beginning of 2013, the Pakistani Taliban have made several offers for talks with the government.
The government has said the militants should give up violence and announce a month-long ceasefire before talks can begin. However, the Taliban have refused to disarm before talks.
"We are from the Pakistani nation and they are from us. We waged jihad for the implementation of Shariah in the country and the Pakistani people are fully supporting us in this struggle," Ihsan claimed. In a related development, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shaukatullah has given a green signal to the grand Jirga for initiating dialogue with the Taliban and other stakeholders, including the government.
Talking to journalists on Friday after meeting members of the Jirga at the Governor's House in Peshawar, Shaukatullah said the Jirga will be extended all possible help and support.
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