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Confusion reigns over talks as Taliban announce committee

03 February, 2014

PESHAWAR/ISLAMABAD: Statements of political leadership triggered confusion after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said that its Shura had agreed on Saturday to constitute a team which could easily meet the government team for peace talks.

"After lengthy deliberations the Shura agreed on constitution of (five-member) team," TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said in a statement he emailed to newspaper offices.

The five members include PTI chief Imran Khan, cleric Abdul Aziz, Maulana Samiul Haq, Mufti Kifayatullah of JUI-F and Prof Muhammad Ibrahim of Jamaat-e-Islami. "TTP's political shura will completely guide and monitor the team," the statement quoted the spokesman as saying, adding that his organisation would provide complete security in its held areas.

Commenting on the TTP's statement, Imran Khan said the militant group should select its own representatives for the peace talks.

He said in a statement that the PTI had full faith in the four-member committee formed by the government for the talks. "However, we will discuss in our core committee meeting on Monday how the PTI can be of assistance to further the dialogue," he added.

PTI Information Secretary Dr Shireen Mazari said the party had not been contacted by the Taliban to ask its chairman to become member of its committee for peace talks with the government.

Ejaz Chaudhry, president of PTI Punjab chapter, said that Imran Khan could not get directly involved in the process of negotiation between the government and Taliban.

Chaudhry said that the party wanted to make the talk process result-oriented by remaining within the parameters of the constitution. He further said that all political parties in parliament should be taken into confidence over the talks initiative. However, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Sami (JUI-S) leader Maulana Samiul Haq said that he had contacted Imran Khan, urging him to accept the offer and join the team of mediators.

In an interview to a private TV channel on Sunday, he said that the TTP would soon announce its nine-member committee to hold peace dialogue with the government's representatives.

Maulana Samilul Haq said that his team would facilitate peace talks between the government and the Taliban. He said that if Imran Khan decided not to play his part as a mediator, it would damage his credibility.

The Taliban would demand that the government release prisoners so that they might join the negotiation committee from their side, he said.

Meanwhile, Abdul Aziz said that he would be part of the TTP committee on certain conditions, including willingness of the government to implement Islamic laws and enforce Sharia in the country.

On the other hand, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman said that both the Taliban and tribal people have confidence over the jirga system, adding, "Why is tribal jirga system being ignored?"

There is need of peace and not war in the country, he told the media in Faisalabad.

He said he had summoned a meeting of the party's executive committee today (Monday) to deliberate on affairs pertaining to peace talks.

Irfan Siddiqui, a member of government's peace committee, on Sunday welcomed the committee announced by Taliban and termed it a "goodwill gesture".

In a statement, Siddiqui said, "We welcome the committee and all committee members are respectable for us."

However, he added, "We were waiting for a green signal from the Taliban so that a serious dialogue process may start without any delay." Siddiqui said that the nation wants beginning of the dialogue immediately in order to bring about peace and stability in the country. He thanked the clerics who had made hectic efforts to ensure success of the dialogue by adopting "serious and realistic approach".

The TTP has demanded that the government include Imran Khan, Samiul Haq, a cleric referred to as "Father of the Taliban", Jamaat-e-Islami leaders Sirajul Haq and Muhammad Ibrahim; Mufti Kifaitullah of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl and the Islamabad-based Lal Masjid cleric Abdul Aziz in the committee.

The Taliban Shura has also chosen a nine-member panel to represent the Taliban at talks with the government, sources said, adding that Qari Shakeel would head this committee.


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