Pakistan to hold fresh talks with Taliban negotiators

AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban Coordination Committee, headed by Maulana Samiul Haq, and Habibullah Khattak-led government committee will meet today (Saturday) to chalk out future line of action for the peace process with the TTP that has hit a major snag in the wake of ceasefire revoked by the Taliban, a government communiqué said.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan will oversee the whole process and conduct the meeting of the two committees. The Pakistani government led by Nawaz Sharif was taken aback on Wednesday when the TTP refused to extend the ceasefire it had announced in March to hold peace talks with the government.
Talks to end the TTP bloody seven-year insurgency have been underway since February, with little clear progress made so far.
On Wednesday, the militants said they would not extend the ceasefire they began on March 1 to help talks, complaining of a lack of movement from the government side.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in a statement that he had called a meeting with the TTP’s talks committee to decide how to proceed.
He said only dialogue could overcome reservations and objections, but warned there was little chance of progress without a ceasefire.
“If Taliban have certain objections, we also have reservations,” he said, adding the government pushed forward the peace process against serious “logjams”.
“(But) I don’t think the talks process will move forward in the absence of a ceasefire,” said the minister, who has been an ardent supporter of the talks.
In the country’s restive northwest, which has borne the brunt of the violence of the last seven years, militants opened fire on government paramilitary troops, killing one and wounding two others.
Since the TTP began their campaign of violence in 2007, more than 6,800 people have been killed in bomb and gun attacks around Pakistan, according to an AFP tally.
The umbrella militant group has demanded the release of what they call “non-combatant” prisoners and the establishment of a “peace zone” where security forces would not be present.
The government freed 19 tribesmen last week and on Sunday Khan said 13 more of what he called “non-combatant Taliban” prisoners would be released to help the peace process. Talks were a key campaign pledge for Nawaz Sharif before he was elected to office for a third time last year, but some observers have cast doubt on their chances of success.

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