[QODLink]
Central & South Asia

Pakistani government and Taliban hold talks

The first formal meeting between the Pakistani government and a Taliban-nominated team is described as "cordial".

Last updated: 06 Feb 2014 18:42
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback

A long-awaited first round of peace talks between the Pakistani Taliban and the government has been held in Islamabad after numerous delays and growing doubt over the chance of their success.

The two sides met on Thursday for a preliminary meeting likely to chart a "road map" for future discussions, amid deep scepticism over whether dialogue can yield a lasting peace deal. The talks will resume on Friday.

Pakistani Taliban fighters have been battling for years to topple the central government and establish Islamic rule, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes the movement is now ready to find a negotiated settlement and stop the fighting.

In a statement after the meeting, which lasted over three hours, the two sides stressed their commitment to dialogue.

"Both committees concluded that all sides should refrain from any act that could damage the talks," it said. "Both condemn recent acts of violence in Pakistan, saying such efforts should not sabotage the talks."

Irfan Siddiqui, a government negotiator picked by Sharif, sent a text message from the meeting to the Reuters news agency, describing the atmosphere as "cordial and friendly".

The peace initiative, which Sharif announced just as many were anticipating a major military offensive on Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) strongholds in the North Waziristan tribal area, got off to a chaotic start earlier this week.

The government delegation missed the planned opening meeting on Tuesday saying they were unsure of who was representing the TTP at the talks and what powers they had been given.

Fragile security

Underlining the fragile security situation, a suicide bomber on Tuesday killed eight people in a sectarian attack against minority Shia Muslims in the northwestern city of Peshawar, just hours after the abortive start to the talks.

The main TTP spokesman denied they were behind the blast but a commander for the group in Peshawar told the AFP news agency his men were responsible, saying no ceasefire had been announced.

Stability in nuclear-armed Pakistan is seen as important to neighbouring Afghanistan, where US-led NATO troops are pulling out after more than a decade of war.

Washington has said it is watching the talks closely. It has long been pushing Pakistan to take action against armed groups using the tribal areas as a base to attack NATO forces across the border.

One of the TTP's negotiating team, Maulana Abdul Aziz, said on Wednesday that there was no chance of peace unless the government agreed to the armed group's demand for Islamic law to be imposed throughout Pakistan.

The government has insisted that Pakistan's constitution must remain paramount.

422

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Email Article
Print Article
Share article
Send Feedback
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
The author argues that in the new economy, it's people, not skills or majors, that have lost value.
Colleagues of detained Al Jazeera journalists press demands for their release, 100 days after their arrest in Egypt.
Mehdi Hasan discusses online freedoms and the potential of the web with Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.
A tight race seems likely as 814 million voters elect leaders in world's largest democracy next week.
Featured
A vocal minority in Ukraine's east wants to join Russia, and Kiev has so far been unable to put down the separatists.
Iran's government has shifted its take on 'brain drain' but is the change enough to reverse the flow?
Deadly attacks on anti-mining activists in the Philippines part of a global trend, according to new report.
Activists say 'Honor Diaries' documentary exploits gender-based violence to further an anti-Islamic agenda.
As Syria's civil war escalates along the Turkish border, many in Turkey are questioning the country's involvement.
join our mailing list