ISLAMABAD: The government and Taliban negotiators Friday expressed concern over a wave of deadly attacks in the country, agreeing that both militants and security forces should refrain from actions which undermine ongoing peace efforts.
The Pakistani Taliban claimed credit for a bomb blast that killed 12 policemen on a bus in Karachi on Thursday, the latest in a series of near-daily attacks since the government called for peace talks with militants to end their seven-year insurgency. “Both the committees expressed deep grief and regret over anti-peace activities and declared that such incidents would have a negative impact on the peace efforts,” a joint statement said after government and Taliban committees met on Friday.
“Referring to the recent incident in Karachi, the government committee adopted the stance that it would become difficult to continue the peace talks when anti-peace activities continue,” it said. “Therefore the Taliban must be asked to make an announcement that they are stopping all kinds of anti-peace activities and implementation of this announcement should be ensured,” the statement quoted the government side as saying.
It said that the Taliban committee “agreed” to the demand and asked the government to also make an announcement that it will not take any action which would create unrest. “For lasting peace no side should use force,” the statement quoted the Taliban side as saying. The chief of the Taliban committee, Maulana Samiul Haq, has called for a session of religious leaders on Saturday to “take the clerics into confidence” regarding the peace negotiations.
Troops have been fighting for years against homegrown insurgents in the tribal belt. Nearly 7,000 people have been killed in the TTP insurgency since it began in 2007, according to an AFP tally. The start of 2014 has seen a surge in militant violence with more than 130 people killed. An air force bombardment of TTP hideouts in North Waziristan led many to believe a major military offensive was imminent until Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the peace talks.
The government and Taliban committees expressed apprehensions that anti-peace activities would make it difficult to continue the dialogue process. Both the bodies met at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House. During the meeting, the government’s committee demanded an immediate end to anti-peace activities. Citing the recent Karachi attack, it adopted the stance that such incidents would make it difficult to continue the talks. “The Taliban should first declare ceasing all anti-peace acts, then other confidence building measures would be discussed,” the statement added.
The meeting was attended by Irfan Sidique, Special Assistant to Prime Minister on National Affairs, Major (r) Aamir, Rahimullah Yousafzai and Rustam Shah, members of government committee.
The government committee informed the Taliban committee that any further attacks by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) would not be tolerated. The government committee stated that if attacks continued it would become difficult to continue the dialogue process. The Taliban-nominated committee presented figures pertaining to TTP members being killed in Swabi, Peshawar and Karachi. The committee also assured their government counterparts that the Taliban would be urged to stop attacks.
The Taliban committee said the government committee’s concerns would be conveyed to the TTP and they were hopeful of a positive response. Maulana Samiul Haq said they did not allow a deadlock in talks and expressed hope that a ceasefire would be announced in 48 hours. The Taliban were asked to release Shahbaz Taseer and Ali Haider Gilani.
The Taliban committee and TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid made telephonic contact during the meeting of committees. According to reports, the Taliban committee apprised Shahidullah Shahid of the demand of government committee for ceasefire. The TTP spokesman said he would apprise the Taliban shura of this demand and would get back to the committee.
Irfan Siddiqui, coordinator of the committee formed by the government to hold talks with the Taliban, said Thursday that they had told the Taliban committee through a letter that terror activities will adversely affect the atmosphere needed for negotiations. Siddiqui, who refused to disclose contents of the letter, said that the Taliban committee had been told that terrorist attacks should immediately be stopped. He said that they further told the Taliban committee that the TTP should refrain from making such statements that might affect atmosphere.
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