ISLAMABAD - To evolve consensus on formation of new committee to broker peace with Taliban, PML-N government has initiated approaching political parties to have their input on the matter.
In this connection, Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan Sunday rang up Imran Khan – who heads the Pakistan Tehreek-I-Insaf (PTI) which rules Khyber Pakhtunkhwa – and asked him to name some representative of KPK government to represent the province in negotiation process.
Nisar, who is focal person in the peace parleys, would also approach the other major political players including main opposition in the parliament – PPP, MQM, ANP, PML-Q, QWP – and parties sitting on treasury benches mainly JUI-F in next few days, sources in the government told The Nation.
Confirming telephonic conversation between Nisar and Imran sources in the PTI said that party chairman told the minister that he would respond after consultation with the party leadership on joining the peace committee to hold direct talks with Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) Shura.
Sources in the PML-N informed that the decision to take along all the political stakeholders in the ‘second phase’ of peace initiative was made following the intense criticism on the option of direct participation of Armed Forces in the peace dialogue, both from opposition and coalition partners of the government.
Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah was the first one to speak against the direct participation of Army in the peace talks. The other opponents of this suggestion included QWP and PML-Q. Even JUI-F chief Fazlur Rehman, sitting with government in Federal Cabinet, vehemently opposed men in khakis sitting on the peace penal.
The parties like Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Awami National Party were against the peace talks and they just wanted full scale operation against the militants as according to the leadership of these political parties militants are just buying time to relocate themselves to safer places to avoid surgical strikes. ANP spokesman Senator Zahid Khan termed the whole exercise a complete farce and said that ultimately government has to go for military operation against these militants.
When contacted, Qaumi Watan Party President Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao said so far government has not contacted him regarding the formation of new committee to hold direct talks with TTP Shura. When asked why he was against the inclusion of Army representative in the peace committee, Sherpao said that Army should not be engaged in the peace parleys and political government should itself tackle the issue and where required, it could take the input from the Army – which is subservient to the political government.
He said that in the past Army had entered into agreements with various militant groups, some of which are still intact, including the one inked with Hafiz Gul Bahadur. But this time the talks are being held at prime minister’s level and Army’s direct involvement would undermine the political dispensation.
Sherpao saw confusion in the ranks of the ruling PML-N and stressed the need of seeking clear-cut explanations from TTP on unabated terrorist attacks despite announcement of ceasefire. Terming some of the demands of TTP as impracticable, he said government should ask for final wish list of TTP before sitting across the table with them to avoid derailment of the process at some later stage.
A senior PML-N leader said they wanted to hold talks with TTP from a position of strength and that would only be possible when political leadership across the spectrum would stand behind the peace process. He said prime minister was very much serious about the talks and that was the reason he had taken serious notice of what he termed provocative statement of Federal Defence Minister Kh Mohammad Asif wherein he had hinted at launching of full-scale operation against militants in case the militants attacks continue across Pakistan.
To avoid such things in future, which could hamper the peace process, Premier Sharif could even come up with some unannounced restriction on his cabinet colleagues regarding making lousy statements on the peace initiative at any stage of parleys.