Taliban and Pakistan Government Talks Unlikely To Proceed

Pakistan TalibanNegotiators representing the Pakistani government and Taliban will not meet for preliminary peace talks that were meant to be taking place following a spate of killings.

Two teams, nominated by the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), were due to gather in Islamabad to chart a preliminary “roadmap” for the talks on Tuesday. This was meant to pave the way for the beginnings of the peace talks.

It was meant to be a done deal however; it now appears that the government committee wants clarification from the Taliban committee on certain issues so the formal meeting is not going to happen today,” he said.

Irfan Siddiqui, the co-ordinator of the government’s committee on peace talks, said his group was seeking clarification from the TTP’s own committee regarding that body’s role and mandate.

Specifically, the government wants to know the nature of the relationship between the TTP-appointed committee and the TTP’s own leadership council.

The Taliban responded to the government’s request for clarification by saying its committee will have the three members all of whom are ready for the talks. It is now up to the government to respond.

Last week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif named a team to begin dialogue with the Taliban, who have been waging a violent campaign against the state since 2007.

Mr Sharif’s team comprises veteran journalists Rahimullah Yusufzai and Irfan Siddiqui, former ambassador Rustam Shah Mohmand and a retired major from the ISI intelligence service, Amir Shah.

The Taliban team includes Maulana Sami ul-Haq, known as the “Father of the Taliban”; the chief cleric of Islamabad’s Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz; and two top religious party leaders – Mufti Kifayatullah and Prof Ibrahim Khan.

Many observers had been anticipating a military offensive against TTP strongholds in Pakistan’s tribal areas, following a bloody start to the year on both sides, with the government responding to Taliban violence with raids on Waziristan strongholds.

More than 110 people were killed in attacks in January, many of them military personnel.

Critics have accused Sharif’s government of dithering in response to the violence.

The TTP has said in the past that it opposes democracy and wants Islamic sharia imposed throughout Pakistan, while the government has stressed the country’s constitution must remain paramount.

The TTP had asked cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan to be part of their team but he declined.

The two sides held separate meetings in Islamabad on Monday and later decided to talk each other on Tuesday, Khan said.

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