Nawaz gives peace committee ‘open mandate’ for Taliban talks

* Siddiqui says Taliban should announce a negotiating team for peace talks * Committee ready to meet Taliban anywhere without any pre-conditions
Nawaz gives peace committee ‘open mandate’ for Taliban talks

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday gave “open mandate” to the four-member peace committee for starting negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). 
Adviser to Prime Minister on National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui who is the coordinator of the committee said during a press conference that the committee was expecting the Taliban Shura to meet soon and announce a negotiation team for holding peace talks. “We are seriously waiting for the start of meaningful and result-oriented dialogue,” he added. The committee held its first formal meeting with the prime minister on Friday.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced formation of the committee during his speech in the National Assembly on Wednesday. The committee comprises PM’s Adviser on National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui, Major (r) Aamir, renowned journalist Rahimullah Yousafzai and Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former ambassador to Afghanistan and expert on Afghanistan affairs. Irfan Siddiqui told reporters that the committee would now look for a response from the Taliban and is ready to meet their representatives at any place.
“We do not want to waste time and want to listen to the Taliban’s stance and have them listen to ours,” Irfan Siddiqui said, adding that the prime minister told the committee about the efforts made by him for holding talks with the Taliban to restore peace and end terrorism which has negative impact on economy and society. The prime minister said he would be available to the committee any time. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was also present during the meeting.
Later, the committee held its second meeting at the Prime Minister’s House during which the interior minister informed it in detail about the efforts made by the government at different stages to begin negotiations with the Taliban. The meeting then held its third meeting in the office of Adviser to Prime Minister Iran Siddiqui and took some decisions. Siddiqui said the committee enjoys the confidence of all parties in parliament, media and all segments of the public opinion.
To a question, he said he was expecting that the committee’s work will span weeks and months, but it would not take years. Expressing optimism about the prospects of talks, he said the outcome of talks will rest on what the Taliban say and what their agenda is. He said the talks with Taliban would not be based on any conditions, however members of the committee understood what the prime minister, government and parties had been saying. Taliban have also so far not objected to the committee or its members, he noted. 
In a written statement, the committee appealed to the government ministers, officials and Taliban to avoid making statements which have a negative effect on the negotiation process. Irfan Siddiqui said the committee has decided that whenever it feels the need it will seek help of influential people from different walks of life in an effort to make the negotiation process successful. He said the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government was fully onboard on the issue of formation of the committee, and Rustam Shah Mohmand had been nominated by it as its representative. He said that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor also talked to him on phone and assured his full cooperation to the committee. 

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