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Talks still ‘best option’ to end terrorism: PM

* PM tells BBC Taliban will have to respect constitution, lay down arms * Will take a few more meetings for the sides to know ‘how sincere we are with each other’
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LAHORE: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he is still hopeful that talks with the Taliban can succeed, despite the militants ending a ceasefire, and that talks offered the “best option” of ending the country’s long conflict.
Talking to BBC Urdu in a rare interview in London, the prime minister said he believed his talks strategy could “bring peace without any further bloodshed”. “If we can make this process somehow successful, I think it will be the best option.”
However, he said the militants had to respect the constitution and lay down their arms. “This of course is the number one condition that has to be met,” he said. “We are making progress on these issues. Let us see if the next round of meetings are successful and we can find a way to make headway in the talks we are holding with each other.” 
Nawaz said that some elements were not happy with the ceasefire with the Taliban, adding that such elements “were not our friends”. He said that such elements opposed peace and wanted to destabilise the talks’ process. He said the same elements were involved in the Islamabad fruit market blast. “We are trying to identify these elements.”
He said that there had been a decline in terror attacks in Pakistan, but they had not ended for good.
To a question that how the law and order situation in Pakistan could improve to make the environment conducive for foreign investment, the prime minister said that the issue of security had been there since 9/11.
“The issue of terrorism has been there since the time of dictatorship in Pakistan. Had there been no martial laws in the country, the issue of security would have emerged,” he said, adding that neither the country, not its people faced any security problem while there was democracy in the country.
Talking about the issue of extremism, Nawaz Sharif said that martial law administrators in the past had put aside politicians to give priority to enhancing relationships with elements who had nothing to do with democracy. “Today we’re looking at the results of such a cooperation.”
Nawaz Sharif said that the government, military and intelligence agencies as one were moving forward to overcome security problems.
“Our first priority is that we solve the problem through dialogue. The dialogue process is underway... Progress in this regard is less than what we expected; however, if we are able to ensure peace without any further bloodshed, there would be nothing like it.”
About the situation in Balochistan, Nawaz Sharif said that the province had been hurt a lot. “We all know how Nawab Akbar Bugti was murdered and then buried in the presence of a few people. No one has forgotten that. I also feel the pain of the Baloch people.”
About Pakistan’s relations with India and Afghanistan, the prime minister said that he wanted good relations with both the countries. “I have had good relations with President Karzai, and need to improve relations with whoever comes into power in India.”
Nawaz said he would soon visit Iran to strengthen relations between the two brotherly countries. He said that the visit also aims at promoting trade relations with Iran, besides discussing border issues.
About his government’s performance during the last 10 months, Nawaz said the government had been paying special attention to education, energy, economy and extremism. “These four topics were included in our manifesto, and we are moving forward on them. The country’s economy is improving... the education budget has been increased from two percent to four percent.”

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