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Central & South Asia
Pakistan to hold peace conference
PM's move follows wave of violence and call by politician for talks with Pakistan Taliban.
Last Modified: 04 Jul 2010 18:28 GMT
The deadly suicide attack on a shrine in Lahore has spurred calls for action against religious groups [AFP]

Pakistan's prime minister has said his government will organise a national conference on ways to combat terrorism.

Yousuf Raza Gilani's announcement followed a demand by the country's main opposition leader that the government should negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban in an effort to improve security.

It also came just two days after suicide bombers killed 42 people at a Sufi shrine in Lahore, the capital of Punjab, a province where the opposition controls the government.

Nawaz Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N), called on Saturday for the government to negotiate with the Pakistani Taliban "who are ready to talk and ready to listen".

The agreement to hold a national conference represents a rare moment of
consensus between the two parties, which have clashed over how to address the
problem of growing violence in Punjab, the country's most populous and richest region.

Officials in the ruling Pakistan People's Party have called on Punjab's PML-N government to crack down on fighters, once supported by the country's intelligence agencies but now allied with the Pakistani Taliban against the state.

Peace conference

The developments come against the backdrop of a peace conference, or jirga, over the issue of fighters in the tribal region of South Warizistan, on the border with Afghanistan.

According to Dawn News, a private TV station, the jirga failed to reach a consensus.

In Depth

 

  Riz Khan: Battling religious extremism
  Riz Khan: Pakistan's violent frontier
  Riz Khan: Pakistan's political landscape
  Riz Khan: Pakistan - Heading to civil war?
  Inside Story: Pakistan: A new wave of attacks?
  People & Power: Breeding discontent
  Focus: Caught in the crossfire

The government has brokered peace deals with Pakistani Taliban fighters along the Afghan border in the past, but they have usually collapsed and often given the fighters time to regroup and consolidate their control.

On their part, the fighters have continued their campaign of attacks in the country's northwest near the Afghan border.

A roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying members of anti-Taliban fighters in Dara Adam Khel on Sunday, killing two and wounding three others, Mohammad Shafiq Khan, a local official, said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban.

Groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban have launched a wave of attacks across the nation in apparent revenge for the military offensives in their bastions in the northwest of the country near the Afghan border.

Ties between armed groups in Punjab, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are especially worrying for the Pakistan government, which has said the military is stretched in campaigns in the northwest.

While most of the reprisal attacks have taken place there, fighters have also stepped up operations in the country's heartland, mainly Punjab, in recent months.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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