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Taliban set preconditions for ceasefire; deadlock persists

20 February, 2014

MIRANSHAH: Taliban insurgents offered Wednesday to observe a ceasefire to allow the resumption of stalled peace talks, provided security forces stop killing and arresting them.

Government me diators suspended negotiations on Monday just weeks after they were announced following weekend claims by a Taliban faction that it killed 23 kidnapped soldiers. The mediators set a ceasefire as a precondition for another round of talks. A total of 70 people have been killed since the reconciliation effort was launched on January 29.

"We are ready for the ceasefire if the government assures us that bodies of our colleagues will not be found in gunny bags and they will not be killed in encounters and arrested in raids," Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told AFP.

"The government has killed more than 60 Taliban since the start of the peace talks, in Karachi and the rest of Pakistan, under a secret operation codenamed Operation Root Out," Shahid said.

"The killings of soldiers in Mohmand were in response to the onslaught on Taliban members by security forces during the talks between government and Taliban committees," he added. A faction of the insurgent group in Mohmand near the Afghan border announced on Sunday they had executed 23 soldiers who were kidnapped in June 2010.

The Taliban's demands include the nationwide imposition of sharia law, an end to US drone strikes and the withdrawal of the army from northwestern tribal regions conditions unlikely to be met. Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (Sami) provincial ameer and member of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Peace Committee Maulana Yousaf Shah Wednesday said that the deadlock over peace talks would soon end as the TTP leadership would give a good news.

Addressing a news conference at the Peshawar Press Club, he said that certain events have hampered the peace talks and despite that the dialogue process would continue. He said efforts are being made to end the deadlock. "The 12-year-old issues cannot be resolved overnight, rather it would definitely take time," he said. "Both committees of the Taliban and government are in contact with each other for a move forward," he added.

Maulana Yousaf said that the Taliban in a statement released recently said that the TTP had taken on board all its groups over the dialogue process and hoped that the deadlock would soon end.

Referring to the demands or conditions of Taliban, he claimed that the TTP has not floated their demands or conditions so far. Maulana Yousaf said PTI leader Imran Khan and JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman should take part in the dialogue process, as the matter was a national issue.

He said that the JUI-Sami was making sincere efforts to bring peace in the country, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which had been facing the brunt of militancy for the last many years. Condemning attacks on media, he said media is expected to continue playing its role neutrally for peace and prosperity in the country.

The government mediators Tuesday demanded a ceasefire from the Taliban before they resume peace talks as another two soldiers were killed in separate attacks. A faction of the insurgent group announced on Sunday they had killed 23 kidnapped soldiers, prompting condemnation from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the cancellation of scheduled peace talks on Monday.

Following a meeting on Tuesday in Islamabad, the government negotiators briefed the prime minister and said they had received a "discouraging response" since talks were announced on January 29.

"The prime minister was told that the committee was unable to carry forward the dialogue process in the absence of an announcement by the Taliban ceasing violent activities and then implementing the decision," a statement said.

End.

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