Pak Taliban rejects Malik’s demand for ceasefire before talks

PTI Islamabad | Updated on February 15, 2013

The Pakistani Taliban have rejected Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s demand that any peace talks should be preceded by a ceasefire, saying any truce will follow the dialogue process.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said the issue of a ceasefire could be one of the topics on the agenda for possible talks.

In the past, Ihsan had completely ruled out the possibility of a ceasefire.

He criticised Malik for adopting what he called a “non-serious approach” towards the offer of peace talks.

“We made the offer of holding talks. However, we have not received any response from the government so far,” he said on phone from an undisclosed location.

Malik had said the government would be ready for a dialogue with Taliban if they announced a month-long ceasefire and formed a jirga of religious scholars to achieve purposeful results.

Malik had also criticised Ihsan and advised the Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud and his deputy, Waliur Rehman, that their spokesman was “not loyal” to them.

Asmatullah Moavia, the chief of the Punjab chapter of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, said the militants had agreed to form a high-level team for negotiations with the government.

The names of the members of this team will be revealed only after the Taliban feel that the government and military are serious about talks, he said.

Moavia claimed any political initiative would be ineffective without a “positive response” from the Pakistan Army.

In a related development, Ihsan told the media that the Taliban has convened a meeting of its Shura or council following a call by Pakistani political parties for settling the issue of terrorism through dialogue.

Ehsan said the Shura would hold its meeting at a location along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

At a conference organised in Islamabad yesterday by the Awami National Party, 27 political parties and lawyers’ groups said priority should be given to negotiations with militants to establish peace in the country.

The parties further said the issue of terrorism should be resolved in accordance with the Constitution, the law and national security and within the bounds of national sovereignty.

Even as the political parties were meeting in Islamabad, militants carried out a string of bomb and suicide attacks in the country’s northwest that killed 21 and injured dozens more.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a police station at Bannu and a suicide car bombing at a security check post in Hangu.

Taliban spokesman Ihsan told the media that his group would continue its attacks till a peace deal is finalised.

“The attacks would continue until we (reach) a viable agreement,” he said.

“We shall be continuing with more such attacks until the peace deal is finalised. Military attacks and peace talks are continuing on both sides, the security forces have also not stopped attacking the Taliban despite offering an olive branch,” Ihsan was quoted as saying on the website of the Dawn newspaper.

Published on February 15, 2013

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