Govt, Taliban intermediaries meet to chalk out future course of action

* Samiul Haq says time for both sides to take solid and practical steps so that dialogue process could move forward * Time and venue for next round of talks will be decided soon

ISLAMABAD: Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan on Saturday held a meeting with government and Taliban intermediary committees and discussed matters that emerged after the first face-to-face parleys with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) a few days back.
While official sources kept mum about the outcome of the meeting, Maulana Samiul Haq, the chief Taliban intermediary and head of his own faction of the JUI, caught the media attention as he expressed his optimism about the peace process. “All issues related to talks with Taliban were thoroughly taken up for discussion in the meeting with an aim to set agenda for further talks,” Samiul Haq said, adding that the interior minister has sought 2-3 days time to come up with a clear position of the his government on the issue. “Both sides want to continue with the negotiations,” he said. “This is the time for both sides to take solid and practical steps so that dialogue process could move forward.”
“Time and venue for the next round of talks with Taliban will be decided soon,” Samiul Haq said, amid speculations that next meeting could possibly take in Shaktoi are of South Waziristan.
Sources told Daily Times that, during the meeting, the government team emphasised on the issue of ceasefire which was set to expire on Monday while Taliban negotiators pleaded their case for the release of non-combatant prisoners. Taliban’s demand for creation of a demilitarised peace zone in South Waziristan as well as high-profile people abducted by them also came up during the discussion. “Neither side, however, insisted on the peace zone demand considering complexities associated to it,” the sources said. 
Ahead of the meeting, Chaudhry Nisar briefed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif about developments in the ongoing dialogue process. While seeking his consent over the next course of action, the minister apprised the prime minister about salient features of the direct talks between government and the Taliban teams.
A member of the Taliban committee requesting anonymity told Daily Times that Taliban are willing to move forward if the government shows some flexibility, at least on the issue of release of non-combatant prisoners. He hoped that the Taliban would extend their ceasefire in return. 
Separately, Professor Ibrahim, a Jamat-i-Islami leader and member of the Taliban committee, ruled out that talks were on the edge of a deadlock. “We should understand that a decade old issue cannot be resolved in a single meeting,” he said. The peace talks were a key campaign pledge for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before he was elected to office for a third time last year. But some analysts have voiced scepticism 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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