Pakistan, Taliban start peace talks in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD Thu Feb 6, 2014 2:47pm EST

1 of 2. Maulana Sami ul-Haq, one of the Taliban negotiators, and government negotiator Irfan Siddiqui (L) smile before a news conference in Islamabad February 6, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Mian Khursheed

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ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - A long-awaited first round of peace talks between Pakistani Taliban insurgents and the government began in Islamabad on Thursday after persistent delays and growing doubt over the chance of their success.

The insurgents have been battling to topple Pakistan's government and establish strict Islamic rule since 2007, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes both sides are now ready to find a negotiated settlement and stop 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 in an Islamabad government building, describing the atmosphere as "cordial and friendly".

Several earlier efforts at striking peace deals with the militants failed to end the violence for long, only allowing them to regroup, recruit new fighters and strike back with renewed vengeance.

Pakistan's neighbors are watching closely, acutely aware that another failure to find a peaceful solution could further destabilize the region already nervous ahead of the expected pull-out of most foreign forces from neighboring Afghanistan.

Thursday's meeting in Islamabad was a preliminary round where the two sides were expected to agree on a broad roadmap for future contacts.

But many in Pakistan doubt that talking to an insurgent group that stages almost daily attacks will succeed.

As the sides prepared for talks this week, a suicide bomber killed eight people near a Shi'ite Muslim mosque in the city of Peshawar. The Taliban have tried to distance themselves from the attack but the bombing reinforced doubts about the talks.

SCEPTICISM

Taliban bosses watched the progress of the talks in Islamabad from their mountainous hideouts on the Afghan border, with their interests represented by three Taliban-friendly public figures hand-picked by the insurgents.

"The progress of the talks will be submitted to the prime minister," said a government official, who declined to be identified, as he was not authorized to comment on the talks.

The Pakistani Taliban, known as Pakistani Tehreek-e-Taliban, are a deeply fragmented umbrella group consisting of dozens of entities, so striking a deal with one of them would not necessarily stop the violence.

On Tuesday, the first attempt at talking got off to a shambolic start after government negotiators failed to turn up at an agreed time, angering the insurgents' representatives.

"The unavoidable question for the government though: what are talks meant to achieve if violence continues even in the immediate run-up to the first real, known attempt at talks?" the respected Dawn daily wrote in an editorial.

Militants have stepped up attacks against security forces since the beginning of the year, prompting the army to send fighter jets to bomb their strongholds in the ethnic Pashtun region of North Waziristan, along the Afghan border, and triggering talk that a major ground offensive was in the works.

(Edited by Tom Heneghan)

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Comments (1)
Glagius12 wrote:
While understanding the nature of talks; aims of Pakistani Government are quite clear how ever, of their counterparts are to be known or atleast speculated, which can not be implementation of islamic law since it will be a non negotiable item by the government, some excesses for their proclaimed area, FATA (to attain some notion of victory) for which a lot has already been done by the Government, demand for isolating from US war which will occur by default in due course of time or release of their associates in the garb of talks so as to assist them in subsequent encounter with Military. Since none of these speculations lead to No-End hence its of utmost importance to comprehend the real covert motives of Pakistani Taliban or atleast short list the possible real covert motives. What possible reasons which i could conclude are, perhaps they have run dry of support from their piers, may be they need to go into suspended animation for some time as result of talks or they have gone quite wary of the show of executive force by Pakistani Military. Furthermore, the talks should not be a Zero Sum Game and towards end both the participants should emerge as winners and claim success of their struggle. Not to forget that the stability or neutralization of Talibanism in Pakistan is of utmost important for the region else it would engulf the region as cancer with India possibly the next target with Global ramifications down a decade. Hence for the time being all the powers vying to fill in the vaccum in post US Scenario should initially focus on the success of these talks, Afghanistan is not going anywhere but future of regional and Global Peace certainly hinges on this moment. As Richelieu said “State has no immortality, its salvation is now or never” so i would say with due respect to him,Peace has no immortality, its salvation is now or never.

Feb 07, 2014 5:20pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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