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Cracks appear in Taliban peace talks committee

08 February, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: The government's peace efforts suffered a major setback on Friday when Maulana Abdul Aziz, a member of the Taliban mediation committee, sought assurance that sharia would be implemented in the country, as a condition for continuing to be part of the negotiations.

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad on Friday the cleric stated, "Until an assurance on enforcement of Islamic law, I will neither meet Taliban nor join the dialogue process." The Lal Masjid khateeb said that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) team of negotiators was constituted with the aim to hold negotiations, but the government's demand that the negotiations be held within the limits of 1973 Constitution will delay the process.

The maulana said that this condition should be withdrawn and suggested replacing the constitution with the teachings of the holy Quran and Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). Aziz warned that he would distance himself from the peace process if the clause on implementation of sharia is not adhered to during the negotiations. "The peace process can move forward only if it is according to the Quran and Sunnah," Aziz said, adding, "I would not be part of peace dialogues till assurance on enforcement of sharia." He said that if by the word constitution the government committee means Islamic laws then there is no problem. "We want this constitution as well," he said.

To a question about whether the 1973 constitution is Islamic or not the cleric said that people should not be misled into believing that our constitution is Islamic. He told reporters that until the government committee brings the imposition of sharia on the agenda he wouldn't be part of the negotiations. "I will be part of the three-man peace committee but won't participate in talks until they give assurance to impose Islamic law," he said.

Aziz said that the government wants to talk about peace within the limits of the constitution but those who they are negotiating with do not believe in it. He said the government's demand to hold negotiations within the parameters of the constitution would undermine the talks. The government's committee, he said, has already expressed reservations about the composition and authority of the TTP's representatives.

On the other hand Information Minister Pervez Rashid told newsmen in Islamabad that every possible help would be extended to the government negotiators and helicopter services would also be provided in case there was a need to send the team to Waziristan for peace talks. He said that the government was awaiting recommendations from its negotiators on the demand put forth by the Taliban committee to meet the prime minister, army chief and director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

In their first meeting on Thursday, the government and Taliban committees expressed the resolve to continue dialogue and vowed that the violent acts of the recent past would not hamper the peace process. Addressing a joint press conference after a three-hour-long meeting at Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House, Irfan Siddiqui and Maulana Samiul Haq said the committees agreed that both sides should stop giving statements against each other and the process of talks should not be long, as the nation is hoping for good news. During the talks, the government committee said it should be conveyed to the Taliban that peace talks should be held within the ambit of the constitution and there should be end to the violent attacks in the country.

It said that the talks should be held only on the militancy-hit areas and these should not be about the whole country. It also asked the Taliban committee about its authority in the presence of the nine-member monitoring committee of the Taliban. The committee also said that there should be no activity which is against peace and security and harmful to the talks process. Reading points of a joint press release, Maulana Samiul Haq said the committees condemned the violent attacks that happened in recent days. The government committee referred to the resolve of the prime minister that he sincerely and honestly wanted talks to be successful for peace in the country.

End.

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