Central & South Asia

Pakistan PM says talks with Taliban started

Islamabad gives no details about the talks, but says they are within constitutional framework of the country.

Last Modified: 31 Oct 2013 15:16
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Earlier this month, Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud said that he was open to talks [EPA]

Pakistan's prime minister has said that talks with the domestic arm of the Taliban had started, though he gave no details about who was taking part or what was on the agenda.

Nawaz Sharif's comments came during a meeting in London with the British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and were released in a statement by the Pakistani High Commission there on Thursday.

"The prime minister informed (the deputy prime minister) that the dialogue with the Taliban has started. He said that he hoped and prayed the dialogue works within the constitutional framework of Pakistan," the statement read.

The Prime Minister said the government "could not wait and see the innocent people and members of law enforcement agencies being killed in the streets of Pakistan".

Sharif was elected this year in part by promising to negotiate with rebels in the country's northwest who have killed thousands of civilians and security forces.

Little appetite for talks

Many are frustrated that years of Pakistani military operations in the tribal areas where the fighters have their safe havens have failed to end the violence. They see negotiations as a necessary step.

Representatives of the country's major political parties backed Sharif's plan for negotiations in early September. His government has been under pressure to show progress ever since.

But the rebels have shown little appetite for talks. They have demanded that Pakistan stop supporting the US-led war in Afghanistan, and that the Pakistani army withdraws troops from the tribal areas of northwest Pakistan that border with Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, Pakistan Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud told BBC news network that he was open to talks.

The Pakistani Taliban has similar viewpoints and loyalties as the Afghan Taliban, but a separate structure with separate leadership.

Sharif's reference to talks taking place inside the framework of the constitution could prove problematic. One of the Pakistani Taliban's demands is a much harsher version of Islamic law across the country than currently allowed in the constitution.


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