Govt makes first contact with Taliban

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THE NATION, ISLAMABAD, 02nd OCTOBER 2013:- The PML-N government has formally established contacts with the Taliban leadership through ulema from Wafaq-ul-Madaris and those commanding respect in various Taliban factions operating in the country’s restive tribal areas.
Sources in the government confirmed having started the process of contact with the Taliban, while modus operandi of the dialogue would shape up in the coming days.
A delegation of ulema belonging to Wafaq-ul-Madaris had a detailed meeting with Federal Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan and some other key persons having a vital role in the whole process on Tuesday and discussed the key issues on which the foundation of peace parleys would be laid.
The sources further said now these ulema who are playing an intermediary role would approach the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leadership to have their input and then in the light of the suggestions and proposals coming from both sides would devise some baseline for the peace initiative, and the two sides would follow basic guidelines for a formal contact.
They further said initially both the sides would be asked to stop operations against each other and then these ulema would sift the workable demands and devise a mechanism for bringing normalcy to the troubled areas.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif remained in constant touch with Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan despite his hectic schedule in the US where he remained for over a week in connection with the United Nations General Assembly session.
The prime minister, who landed back on Tuesday night, would be having a detailed briefing from the interior minister on the subject with specific reference to Tuesday’s meeting with the ulema.
The sources further said that as the prime minister would be having some other pressing engagements, including finalisation of names for the NAB chief slot and the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman, the interior minister would be dealing with the dialogue process with the Taliban.
Sources in the ruling PML-N revealed that a meeting of the prime minister with the leader of opposition was fixed for October 3 (Thursday) at which they would finalise a name for the NAB chairman.
On the other hand, the prime minister would be finding a fresh summary for the appointment of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee chairman and he would have to pick a person for the slot as the incumbent would be retiring next week.
It is pertinent to mention here that previously the Ministry of Defence had put up the name of Lt-Gen Mahmood Haroon Aslam for the slot, but it was turned down by the premier before his departure for the US.
Agencies add: Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has welcomed an appeal for ceasefire made by Wifaqul Madaris ulema.
TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid Tuesday said the Tehrik would follow the suit, if the government decided a ceasefire prior to talks. Shahid also thanked PTI Chairman Imran Khan for his proposal to allow the TTP to open a political office. However, he added that the militia didn’t need such an office in Pakistan.
He said it was the unanimous decision of the TTP Shoora to move forward in light of the all-parties conference (APC) proposals.
This positive geture of Taliban can be considered as a major breakthrough for peace talks as the TTP on Saturday sharply criticised Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for changing his mind and giving a precondition of laying down weapons. “By telling us that we will have to lay down arms and respect the constitution, the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, showed that he is following the policy of America and its allies,” a TTP spokesman said.
In an interview with a private TV channel, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said that if the Taliban refuse to obey the Constitution and the Parliament‚ action will be taken against them. “Talks are possible only with those who obey the Constitution and the Parliament”, Imran elaborated.
He said the Army and the political parties were on the same page to hold talks with the Taliban. He said top priority should be given to holding talks with the Taliban with the use of force as a last option. Military action alone was not the solution of the problem, he maintained.
He said some of our enemies were funding some groups of Taliban against Pakistan. He reminded terrorism and suicidal attacks started in the country owing to wrong policies of the former military dictator Pervez Musharraf.
To a question, he said all the parties have given mandate to the government for holding talks with Taliban and there should not be delay in launching of this process.

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