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Pakistani Taliban defer peace talks offer

19 March, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Taliban on Monday deferred its offer of peace talks with the government over its lack of "seriousness", urging voters to boycott upcoming elections.

Parliament made history last week by becoming the first in the country's history to complete a full term in office and voters are due to elect new leaders by mid-May.

But TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan, in a video posted on Facebook, warned people to stay away from the rallies of the parties that made up the coalition government, criticising the democratic system for inflation and unrest in Pakistan.

"Generals and politicians are exploiting this country for their own interests, so seeing all these conditions, TTP has temporarily postponed its offer for talks in the interest of nation and Islam," Ehsan said, flanked by two masked gunmen.

"On our talks process, the lack of seriousness by stakeholders has proved... who is pushing this country into fire and blood, who is the real cause of unrest."

The TTP's offer of peace talks last month was on the condition that certain politicians became guarantors in the process. The government in response urged the Taliban to announce a 30-day ceasefire as a precursor to such talks.

Taliban attacks and record levels of violence directed against the Shia Muslim minority in the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million have raised fears about security for the upcoming polls.

But Ehsan said the powerful military had imposed the long-running war against militants for financial benefit and to carry out orders from the United States, accusing authorities of allowing US drone attacks to make money.

"TTP sympathetically appeals to the Muslim nation that it should boycott every process under this secular and atheist system. Particularly people should stay away from the rallies of MQM, ANP and PPP," he said. The Pakistan People's Party of former slain prime minister Benazir Bhutto has ruled with coalition partners Awami National Party (ANP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement for the past five years.

"God willing TTP will impose Islamic system," Ehsan said, urging Pakistanis to follow the example of Arabs in Libya and Syria in making efforts to end the "exploitative system". He did not specify that militants would target political rallies of the three parties. Consultations are still ongoing on forming a caretaker administration to take charge until a new government takes power.

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