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Central & South Asia

Pakistan Taliban sets tough terms for peace

Tehreek-e-Taliban says government has to free all jailed fighters if peace negotiations are to make headway.

Last updated: 10 Feb 2014 09:13
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The group has also demanded a nationwide implementation of a strict form of Islamic law [Reuters]

The Taliban have demanded the release of all jailed fighters and the withdrawal of troops from tribal areas as conditions for talks with the Pakistani government, officials said.

Negotiating teams held a first meeting on Thursday, but the dozen conditions now laid down by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) will further cast doubts on chances of success, the AFP news agency reported.

The group wants an estimated 4,000 prisoners freed, including those awaiting execution.

They outlined their demands to a team of Islamist clerics representing them in preliminary negotiatiations with the government about ending a seven-year conflict that has claimed thousands of lives.

A TTP commander told the AFP the prisoner and troops issues were a "test case" for the government to prove its sincerity.

"This is the first round of talks. The committee members will now meet the government committee and will forward our demands, they will meet us again with a reply," the commander said.

The three-member team representing the TTP has returned to Islamabad after meeting the group's 10-member council at their headquarters in the mountainous tribal district of North Waziristan over the weekend.

Pakistan's military entered the tribal areas in 2003 after the US invasion in 2001 of Afghanistan, launching operations against homegrown and foreign fighters.

The withdrawal of troops and release of prisoners are longstanding demands of the TTP.

The Taliban said they wanted security in the tribal areas taken out of the hands of the army and given to local security and administrative officials, a move which would strengthen the fighters' control.

The negotiating team was led by Ibrahim Khan, of the Jamaat-e-Islami religious political party, and also included clerics Yousuf Shah and Maulana Abdul Haseeb.

The Taliban's other demands included nationwide implementation of a strict form of Islamic sharia law and Islamic-based education at all levels, an end to Pakistan's military support for the US, a halt to drone strikes, and an end to interest-based banking.

Talks between the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and the Taliban began last week.

But there has been widespread scepticism about the chances of ending the TTP's bloody campaign, particularly since regional deals have quickly broken down in the past. 

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Source:
AFP
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