Taliban in peace talks with Government

TalibanDERA ISMAIL KHAN: The government intermediaries have held talks with the Pakistani Taliban in recent months, exploring ways to jump-start peace negotiations, intelligence officials and a senior militant commander said.

As reports of the talks emerged, officials on Monday said that gunmen ambushed a paramilitary convoy in Balochistan, killing 14 soldiers.The Pakistani Taliban have waged a separate war against the government. A peace deal between authorities and the group could represent the best hope of ending years of fighting that has killed thousands of security personnel and civilians.But it is unclear whether the preliminary talks will gain traction or if the Pakistani Taliban are unified enough to actually strike a deal. It is also uncetain whether a deal could last.

“Peace talks are continuing with the Pakistani government and army. We have had two rounds of such talks,” one senior Taliban commander said by telephone, claiming to be on a 10-member negotiating committee.He said Taliban conditions included troops withdrawing to barracks, the military compensating losses and an exchange of prisoners.The government has cut peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban in the past, but they have largely fallen apart. The agreements have been criticised for allowing the militants to regroup and rebuild their strength to resume fighting the government and foreign troops in Afghanistan.

Talk of a new peace deal could be troubling to the United States if it is seen as providing militants with greater space to carry out operations in neighboring Afghanistan. However, Washington’s push for a peace deal with the Afghan Taliban could make it difficult to oppose an agreement in Pakistan.The Afghan and Pakistani Taliban are allies but have primarily focused their attacks on opposite sides of the border.

The government delegations that held preliminary talks with the Pakistani Taliban over roughly the past six months have included former civilian and military officials and tribal elders, the intelligence officials and a senior militant commander said in recent interviews with the Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.The discussions are focused on the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border and could be expanded to try to reach a comprehensive deal if progress is made.As a confidence building measure, the Pakistani Taliban released five officials from the country’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency who were kidnapped in Balochistan, the officials and the commander said in the interviews. – Dailytimes