Pakistan, Taliban to hold direct talks 'in days'

Parties agree secret location for negotiations.

Pakistan, Taliban to hold direct talks 'in days'

World Bulletin / News Desk

The Pakistani government and the Taliban agreed on Saturday to start direct talks within “two-to-three” days, aiming to end the group’s insurgency which has lasted for over a decade.

A newly formed government committee and Taliban negotiators met in Islamabad for the first time after the dissolution of a previous talks group on March 12. They finalized a secret location for holding of direct talks between the government committee and the leadership of the formidable Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) organisation, a conglomerate of different insurgent groups.

Head of the three-man TTP team, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, told reporters: “The chosen place will be declared a peace zone”.

The location remains unspecified for security reasons.

The government had dissolved its previous talks committee after its members declared that they had accomplished their mission, which was to bring Taliban to the table. The government’s new committee comprises three-to-four serving officials and a former diplomat, Rustam Shah Mohmand, the only remaining figure from the old body.

Although Haq did not elaborate on the “specified location”, despite repeated queries from journalists, the government and Taliban sources say that the rendezvous is likely to be Laddah or Makeen, two former TTP strongholds in the restive South Waziristan region.

The TTP had been ousted from the region in 2009 following a military onslaught.

“The two sides [government and Taliban] are showing flexibility and willingness for the success of the talks”, Haq said.

“Things are moving in the right direction. The nation will soon hear good news”, he added.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, when addressing a press conference on Friday had hinted that the TTP, which is currently observing a month-long ceasefire, would continue the cessation beyond the March 31 deadline. However, he did not elaborate.

The TTP too has already expressed its willingness to convert the month-long truce into a permanent ceasefire.

The ongoing peace talks, which began on January 29, reached an impasse in February following two fatal attacks on security forces followed by massive army bombardments on militant hideouts in the lawless northern tribal belt, killing over 100 militants.

However, back-channel diplomacy resulted in a month-long ceasefire announced by the Taliban on March 1.

Last Mod: 22 Mart 2014, 17:18
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