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Central & South Asia
Pakistani Taliban 'in talks with government'
Taliban commander says peace talks with Islamabad over the Bajaur tribal agency are going "in the right direction".
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2011 13:50
The Taliban has been battling the Pakistani army in the country’s northwest for the last four years [EPA]

The Pakistani Taliban have confirmed that they are in peace talks with the government in Islamabad.

"Our talks are going in the right direction," Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, the commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] in the Bajaur tribal agency, and the deputy commander of the movement as a whole, told the Reuters news agency on Saturday.

"If negotiations succeed and we are able to sign a peace agreement in Bajaur, then the government and the Taliban of other areas such as Swat, Mohmand, Orakzai and South Waziristan tribal region will sign an agreement.

"Bajaur will be a role model for other areas."

He said Pakistan had released 145 members of the group as a gesture of goodwill, and the fighters had pledged a ceasefire.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said the talks had been initiated under mediation efforts from tribal leaders.

“The government is saying it needs to do this as there is no solution other than a political solution," he said.

"It will certainly anger the Americans, but the argument here in Pakistan is that if the Americans are willing to talk to the Taliban, then there should be no objection for Pakistanis to try some sort of settlement."

'Give peace a chance'

The armed group has been battling the Pakistani army in the country’s northwest for the last four years, resulting in the deaths of thousands of Pakistanis.

The group has taken responsibility for a number of major attacks across the country.

There was no immediate comment from the government on the reports, but Islamabad pledged in September to "give peace a chance" and talk with homegrown armed groups.

The announcement may further fray relations between Pakistan and the US, from which the country receives billions of dollars in military aid, as Washington has labelled the TTP a terrorist group.

The development comes weeks after at least 24 Pakistan soldiers were killed in a NATO air raid, which US President Barack Obama said was a mistake.

Following the incident, Pakistan shut a vital NATO supply route into Afghanistan and ordered the US to vacate Shamsi air base.

A Pakistani parliamentary committee has ordered a complete review of all strategic agreements with the US, and top officials say that the goal is to draft a new set of "terms of engagement" with the United States.

Past peace pacts with the TTP have failed to bring stability and merely gave the umbrella group time and space to consolidate. In every previous case of a peace deal with members of the group, peace deals have broken down and led to the resumption of hostilities.

There have been isolated instances of peace deals with members of the group holding, but these have usually involved the local commander in question withdrawing from the TTP.

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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