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Taliban, govt trying to bridge 'trust deficit': Prof. Ibrahim

28 March, 2014

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ISLAMABAD: A negotiator for the Pakistani Taliban said Thursday the two sides were trying to build confidence in one another and would meet for more talks in "the next few days".

Professor Muhammad Ibrahim, a member of the Taliban's original negotiating committee who attended Wednesday's session said he was "confident" the militants would extend their month-long ceasefire, following a first round of direct talks with the government.

The government began negotiations with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) through intermediaries last month to try to end the bloody seven-year insurgency. On Wednesday a four-member government committee comprising three civil servants and a former diplomat held their first meeting with members of the TTP's political council in North Waziristan tribal district.

Few details have emerged from Wednesday's talks but extending a Taliban ceasefire — declared to help the peace process but due to expire next week — was seen as a top priority. Professor Ibrahim said, "We are confident that the ceasefire will be extended," he told AFP. "Our efforts will be to ensure that there is a permanent ceasefire."

The TTP has also asked the government to release around 300 people including women and children it says are being held despite being "non-combatants". There have been suggestions that high-profile figures held by the militants, including the son of former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, could be freed in return. The peace talks were a key campaign pledge for Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif before he was elected to office for a third time last year.

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