ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Thursday announced that direct peace negotiations would be held with the Taliban to make the process resulted-oriented.
Winding up debate on the National Internal Security Policy in the National Assembly on Thursday, he said the government’s target is to start direct negotiations from the next week. He said a new government negotiating team is being constituted which will also have one representative of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, as the province has been bearing the brunt of the terrorism. The minister said the committee would contact the other side to make parameters of the dialogue absolutely clear so as to remove the misconception that the talks are taking place at the expense of the constitution or from a weaker position.
Nisar said the prime minister would chair a meeting of chief ministers in Islamabad next week to ensure coordination with them on implementation mechanism. The interior minister said that the desired objectives were achieved through precision strikes and the government position would continue to be the same in case any terrorism activity by the militants. He told the House that the government has asked the TTP to condemn the Islamabad attack and help identify the perpetrators.
Nisar said that majority of the militant groups have supported negotiations as the only way to maintain peace in the country. He was confident that all the options which have so far came under discussion with the Taliban committee were positive and the government was comfortable on them. He said parliament would be taken into confidence as and when a positive development takes place with regards to the talks with the Taliban.
Earlier, taking part in the debate, MNA Obaidullah Khan Shadikhel asked party heads to share their ideas and proposals with the negotiating committee to make the dialogue process more smooth and meaningful. Meanwhile, another lawmaker, Shazia Mari claimed that a lot of work was done on counter-terrorism front during the tenure of the last government and there is need to build on it.
Peace negotiators representing the government and Taliban insurgents called on Thursday for higher-level talks between the two sides following a breakfast meeting hosted by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “We have asked the prime minister to replace this committee with an effective forum,” said government chief negotiator Irfan Siddiqui after Thursday’s meeting. “We believe that in the next phase, sensitive issues and demands will come up and we need to have a mechanism for direct contacts.” Rahimullah Yusufzai, another government negotiator, told AFP: “We have proposed that those who have authority to make decisions should be part of this committee. There should be representatives from the government and the military in the committee.”
On the Taliban side, chief negotiator Maulana Samiul Haq said his team was “satisfied with the round of talks this morning with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif”. “It was decided in the meeting that now the time has come to strengthen the committees and empower them more,” he added. Haq said his team might have to return to the Taliban’s base in the tribal areas in a day or two to report back to their leadership.
Observers have criticised the dialogue process for being a step removed from the real decision-makers, but analyst Imtiaz Gul said face-to-face contacts risked giving respectability to a banned militant outfit. “It is a legitimate demand to have direct TTP representation in talks. However if that happens and the government representatives are sitting across the table, this could amount to lending legitimacy to an organisation which the government has proscribed as a terrorist outfit,” he told AFP.
A statement issued by Nawaz’s office said he was committed to peace. “As prime minister it is my constitutional, religious, national, moral and human duty to stop the continuation of fire and blood and give peace to the country and citizens,” it said. The peace talks, which began in February, were a key campaign pledge for Nawaz before he was elected to office for a third time last year. But many analysts are sceptical about their chances for success, given the Taliban’s demands for nationwide sharia law and a withdrawal of troops from the lawless tribal zones.
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