Pakistani PM says talks with Pakistani Taliban are underway

LONDON (Reuters) - Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday his country had started talks with the Pakistani Taliban to try to stop what he said was the killing of innocent people and members of the law enforcement agencies.

The Pakistani Taliban, an umbrella group of factions operating independently from their Afghan Taliban allies, are fighting to set up an Islamic state in Pakistan.

The Pakistani government has been trying to negotiate a peace settlement to end years of fighting, but the al Qaeda-linked group had previously said it was not open to talks.

"The Prime Minister informed that the dialogue with the Taliban has started," the High Commission for Pakistan in London said in a statement.

"He said that he hoped and prayed the dialogue works within the constitutional framework of Pakistan," the statement added, saying Pakistan was upgrading its counter-terrorism capability at the same time.

Sharif made the comments during a meeting with British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg during which he spoke about Pakistan's relationship with India, the global energy market, and economic reforms in Pakistan.

British Prime Minister David Cameron hosted a meeting with Sharif and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in London earlier this week to talk about the peace process in Afghanistan.

A large Pakistani government delegation has since met with other government officials.

The Pakistani Taliban has said in the past that it would not disarm or talk to the government until the army pulled back from its strongholds and all its prisoners were released.

(Reporting by William James; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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