Islamabad, Nov 23: The Pakistani Taliban, responsible for a string of terror attacks across the country, have said they have held initial peace talks with the government, but denied announcing a ceasefire.
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Hakimullah Mehsud’s aide Tuesday told the News International that Islamabad had made some offers for talks through tribal elders and clerics and the Taliban leaders had accepted it after mutual consultations.
A group of Taliban leaders had been nominated for negotiating with the government.
He said the talks were at the initial stage.
‘One should not expect any immediate breakthrough from these talks which are in the initial and difficult stage,’ the Taliban leader was quoted as saying.
Another militant commander also said that peace talks were on with the government and added that three rounds of talks had taken place so far.
The Taliban want a halt to the ongoing military operation in the tribal areas, release of all rebels, withdrawal of Pakistani security forces from Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and compensation to those tribesmen who were impacted during the military operations.
They also demanded that military operations against them should not be launched at the behest of the US.
Though tangible results had not yet been achieved, the Taliban leader was optimistic about the future.
He said: ‘The talks are going in the right direction.’
Militant commanders told the News International that they were surprised over reports of a ceasefire announced by them.
On Monday ‘our fighters in Orakzai Agency attacked military positions and killed a number of soldiers, including officers, and destroyed their vehicles. If we have announced a ceasefire, then why are our people still fighting the Pakistani security forces in Orakzai and elsewhere in the tribal areas and districts,’ said a senior Taliban commander.
Speaking in Quetta Tuesday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik welcomed the Taliban Pakistan’s announcement of ceasefire and said it would bring peace in the country.
‘I have no formal information about Taliban’s ceasefire announcement and offer, however, we will welcome unilaterally ceasefire offer of Taliban,’ Associated Press of Pakistan quoted Malik as saying.
He added that Taliban would have to lay down their weapons if they are sincere in ceasefire and for peace talks.