Peshawar/ISLAMABAD - The Pakistani Taliban said Friday they have had “no contact” with the government, a day after officials said a process to initiate peace talks had been started.
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been edging towards peace talks to end the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) bloody six-year struggle against the state, which has left thousands dead. Last month Sharif won the backing of the main political parties to go ahead with dialogue, and the powerful army chief has voiced his support.
Officials said Thursday that the “process of dialogue” had started but no formal talks had taken place yet. Shahidullah Shahid, the main spokesman for the TTP told AFP on Friday that there had been no overtures.
“No one has yet contacted us. The government is making announcements only by media, no peace talks have yet been started,” Shahid said. “The beginning of peace talks means sitting at a table and discussing issues, no such thing has yet happened.”
After the political parties gave their backing to talks, the TTP issued a list of preconditions including the release of all its members held in Pakistani jails and the withdrawal of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghan border, where the militants have hideouts. Shahid on Friday reiterated these demands and said the government must fulfil them to prove they are serious about talks.
Meanwhile, Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Pervaiz Rashid has said that the government was prepared to hold talks with Taliban. He said that there were some ups and down as the situation was tense during last some days but now the hurdles in the process of dialogue with Taliban have been overcome and the formal talks would begin soon.
He was responding to questions by newsmen after distributing certificate among the participants of a training programme at National Broadcasting House Friday.
The minister said Pakistan condemns all forms of terrorism and abide by international laws to curb terrorism and bring the culprits involved in this heinous crime to justice. He said Pakistan is fully cooperating with India on the issue of Mumbai terrorist attacks, as it wants to take action against culprits according to international laws. He said Pakistan is an honourable member of the international community and is playing its due role to bring peace in the region and all over the world.
He said there were many ups and downs in the process including precious loss of life of our defence personnel ever since the government was given mandate but now the stage is set for initiation of the dialogue. Replying to a question he said killing of even one Pakistani citizen in drone strikes is a matter of concern for the Government. He said it is also a question of violation of sovereignty and security of the country.
The minister said any culprit involved in crimes against humanity has no nationality but he is criminals and must be brought to justice. He said human resource development and technological up gradation apart‚ the PBC should also revive its traditional links with arts and they should find their due place in its programmes.
The Information Minister said the decision to initiate dialogue was taken unanimously by the political leadership of the country and the Government was mandated for the purpose. He said Interior Minister Ch. Nisar Ali Khan is the focal person for the dialogue process and he would soon take media into confidence on the issue.