Pakistani Taliban forms committee to start talks with government

Islamabad, Feb 2: The Pakistani Taliban Sunday formally announced a committee of senior political and religious leaders to mediate peace talks with government negotiators.

The Taliban’s central council unanimously agreed to open talks with the government and formed a five-member committee of leaders who favour a peace dialogue with the government, Xinhua reported.

The committee comprises senior opposition leader Imran Khan, Maulana Abdul Aziz, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, Professor Mohammad Ibrahim and Mufti Kifayatullah, the Dawn reported.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the Taliban leadership has formally requested the committee members to go ahead with the dialogue process.

Two members of the Taliban’s proposed team have already agreed to participate in the preliminary talks, saying they will soon meet to discuss its strategy.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has earlier formed a four-member committee, headed by one of his special advisers, to open dialogue with the Taliban.

Professor Ibrahim, a member of the Taliban committee, said he had already contacted another designated senior member of the committee, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, to discuss the timetable for their internal consultations.

The formation of committees on both sides is the first major step in bringing forward the dialogue process that has been hoped for by the people of Pakistan for a long time, even during the previous government.

Meanwhile, a 10-member monitoring committee has also been formed by the Pakistani Taliban to oversee the dialogue process, the Dawn reported.

The newspaper quoted Shahidullah Shahid as saying that talks between government negotiators and the TTP team will be supervised by the monitoring committee.

He said Taliban commander Qari Shakeel will head the supervising committee.

Pakistan’s Minister for Interior Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan termed the announcement of negotiating team from Taliban as a positive development.

However, he said there were still some issues which are needed to be explained after which the dialogue may start formally.

“It is a matter of great satisfaction that both sides have announced their negotiating teams after many years and this reflects that both sides want to make peace through negotiations and dialogue,” the Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) quoted the minister as saying in a statement Sunday.

Earlier in the day, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, who is among the five members named by the Taliban in its committee, said the militant group should select its own representatives for the peace talks.

IANS