ISLAMABAD - Announcing release of another 13 non-combatant prisoners as a confidence building measure ahead of next round of face-to-face meeting with Taliban shura, Interior Minister Nisar Ali said Saturday that he expected the Taliban to reciprocate and release innocent people in their captivity.
Talking to media after chairing a joint meeting of government and Taliban nominated peace committees here at Punjab House Saturday evening, Nisar said despite severe criticism from various quarters the government remained steadfast to carry forward dialogue with the militants because it wanted to bring peace to the country without losing more lives.
Interior minister said after release of 19 non-combatant Taliban prisoners last month, the government had decided to release more 12 to 13 Taliban prisoners as a good will gesture and expected the same response from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). He said that behind the scene there was progress on different matters.
The meeting, he said, discussed a number of issues and showed its confidence on a number of them. Chaudhry Nisar said government expected Taliban to come up with a definite agenda for peace talks while government would also pinpoint its expectation from these parleys. He added that all what government wanted is to keep the whole exercise in the parameters of constitution.
After the meeting, the head of Taliban nominated committee and JUI-S chief Samiul Haq was upbeat about the success of the peace negotiations and informed that they would be meeting with Taliban shura members in few days for which the venue is yet to be finalised.
A source in Sami-led panel informed that venue of the next meeting between Taliban and government representatives would be finalised in a couple of days as two to three areas were already picked for the agenda of the meeting and now they have just to finalise the venue from among already selected spots.
Interior minister talking to reporters said, “The number of released prisoners would be around 30 when the two sides would be meeting face to face for next round of talks next weeks,” adding that some of the prisoners to be released in next batch would be from the TTP provided list. This is for the release of non-combatants from both sides and the response should also come from the other side, he asserted.
“If we would move towards peace, more prisoners would be released and an atmosphere of confidence would be built,” he said, adding they were moving towards complete end to violence incidents. “We have asked them to release Prof Ajmal Khan, sons of slain Punjab Governor Salman Taseer and former Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, as well as some foreigners and government servants,” the minister said, saying there was no point in keeping non-combatants and innocents into custody.
The minister also said that the second round of peace talks would be held next week and the government was pointing out a suitable place for this purpose where leadership of Taliban could move easily. He said that the matter of peace talks was now proceeding positively and the issues as well as demands from both sides have yet to come as actual demands from Taliban should come and the government will also send its demands to the Taliban.
“These are the defining moments and the basic point of the government is to attain peace,” he informed. He said they wanted to get released prisoners as well complete end to the incidents of violence. “To launch military operation is not an uphill task but it is difficult to bring peace,” he viewed. About Taliban demand of peace zone, he said it was a misperception as Taliban only demanded a suitable place for talks should be pointed out where they could move easily.
Replying a question about the speech of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari that the blind are being followed in the name of peace talks, Chaudhry Nisar said he did not want to comment on the speech of a ‘child’. It is their misunderstanding that public would change its negative opinion for them with these statements.
Expressing his satisfaction over the release of some non-combatant prisoners Samiul Haq said that ground for peace have been levelled and soon both sides would sit down to draw the roadmap to permanent peace. He said they would also ask Taliban shura to reciprocate and release some people in their custody. To a question he said the issue of militants’ release by the government would come at some later stage of negotiations.