Pakistan debates talk offer from Tehreek-e-Taliban

Islamabad, Feb. 5 -- Pakistan's Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) has reached out to right-of-centre political parties in an attempt to start a dialogue with the government.

Many say this is a sign the TTP is softening its position in the wake of sustained military campaign against them. Ehsanullah Ehsan, TTP spokesman, said they were willing to talk to the army only if there were guarantors in between. "The real power is the army," said Ehsan, adding that the TTP would like to talk to the military but were reluctant to do so as in the past the army had broken its agreements. "We want someone to guarantee that the army will keep its word."

The TTP named three politicians who could be named as mediators - former prime minister and head of the opposition PML-N party, Nawaz Sharif, the head of the Jamiat Ulema Islam -F party, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and the Ameer of the Jamaat-e-Islami party Syed Munawwar Hasan. Only Rehman has responded so far, welcoming the peace talks.

Interior minister Rehman Malik had earlier said that Sharif had refused to act as a guarantor. Sharif's spokesman, Khwaja Saad Rafiq, said the decision would only be taken with the government's consent.

The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government has welcomed the latest Taliban overture for conditional talks with authorities, calling it a "good omen". However, the army high command has not commented on the offer so far.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.

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