Pak Taliban renews talks offer; to approach political leaders

Taliban

Pakistani Taliban will directly approach three political leaders, including PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, to become guarantors for the peace talks, as it renewed its offer of dialogue with the government.

The decision that Ihsan should approach Sharif, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rahman and Jamaat-e-Islami leader Munawar Hassan was taken at a meeting of the 'Shura' (council) of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan held yesterday.

"We had earlier urged these three leaders to become guarantors between us and the government in peace talks but they were telling the media that the Taliban had not contacted them personally," an unnamed senior Taliban commander was quoted as saying by The News daily. The commander said the Shura decided Ihsan should personally speak to the three opposition leaders and request them to become guarantors. The commander further said the Taliban would think about a ceasefire after talking to the three leaders and after assessing whether the government was serious about "meaningful peace talks". Ihsan told reporters in the northwest that the meeting of the Shura reviewed the situation in Pakistan and core issues related to the proposed peace process. Ehsan said Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud and deputy chief Waliur Rehman attended the meeting. Mehsud stressed on dialogue with the government according to the Taliban's conditions, Ihsan said. The Pakistani Taliban chief has twice offered peace talks to the government but made it clear that his group will not disarm.

Ihsan said the government should stop cooperating with the US in its war against the Taliban in Afghanistan, rewrite Pakistan's constitution to bring it in line with Shariah or Islamic law, and apologise for military operations in the tribal areas.

The Taliban subsequently toned down some of its demands and emphasised the need for having three guarantors to make any talks meaningful. The government has insisted that it can consider any offer for talks only if the Taliban give up violence and surrender their arms. Interior Minister Rehman Malik has called on the Taliban to declare a month-long ceasefire and to lay down their weapons before any talks.

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