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Pakistan mulls peace talks with Taliban

Statesman News Service |

Press Trust of India
ISLAMABAD, 15 JULY: Pakistan plans to form a “working group” this month to hold peace talks with the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and other Islamist militant groups, in an effort to end continuous violence in the country, according to a media report.
The working group is expected to be announced after an all-party conference scheduled to be held later this month to build a consensus on the proposed national security policy, ‘The Express Tribune’ reported today.
The proposed working group would comprise politicians and other figures who could use ‘their influence and good offices’ to make peace talks successful, the report said.
According to the draft security policy, the government would devise a mechanism to reintegrate those who either shun the ‘so-called jihadi organisations’ or who got disengaged from such acts on any account.
Under the plan, the government is considering utilising former militants and those militants who are in custody to reach out to the TTP, a group which has united various militant factions operating in Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal areas along the Afghan border.
The government led by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already announced that it is willing to negotiate with the TTP and other ‘reconcilable groups’ for the sake of peace. However, the security establishment is wary of this approach as such tactics have failed to yield positive result in the past.
During his last week visit to the headquarters of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Mr Sharif was briefed on the ground situation and the ‘hard choices’ his government have to make for peace talks.
Analysts fear that when dealing with an umbrella group like TTP, there is no guarantee that its component groups would honour any peace deal the government might cut with its leadership. “The strategy must focus on isolating the hardcore militants who may never enter into negotiations,” said security analyst Brigadier (retd) Mehmood Shah.
He said that despite its peace efforts, the government will eventually have to take some decisive action against the hardened militants.
Mr Shah believes that before the coalition troops withdraw from Afghanistan, Pakistan will have to carry out a targeted operation in the tribal belt to eliminate ‘irreconcilable militants’.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister’s Adviser on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz has refused to comment on the proposed working group, saying that the government would announce the new policy after completion of the consultation process.