Pak govt in contact with Taliban for peace talks: Minister
Islamabad: Back channel talks between the ruling PML-N and the Taliban are under way to work out a peace formula to end the cycle of violence in Pakistan, a media report on Saturday said.
"Unofficial talks between the government side and Taliban are in progress," Information Minister Pervez Rashid said.
The government was exploring all options to restore lasting peace in the country and was in contact with Taliban at different levels, Rashid told The Dawn daily.
He endorsed a statement made by Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that a formula had been chalked out for holding formal talks with Taliban within a month.
"Maulana Sahib is a responsible person and whatever he said is correct," he said.
Rehman had yesterday said that a forum comprising authoritative and responsible people was being formed for holding talks with Taliban within a month.
The information minister did not say at what level talks had been initiated and with which group of militants.
But, he said the government was ready to negotiate with any group of Taliban interested in holding talks.
"I cannot say with which group of Taliban we are holding talks because today we are talking with two groups and if another group wants to join we will welcome it too," he said.
He said the government`s main objective was to restore peace and it would do everything possible to achieve that.
"We have to rid the country of the menace of terrorism for which all options would be utilised".
Asked if the government had taken opposition into confidence before going for negotiations with Taliban, he said the opposition was always consulted during formal and informal meetings and, particularly, in the Parliament House.
But, he said, there would be no opposition leader in the forum being formed for the talks which would be between the government and Taliban.
"Therefore there is no need to include any leader of the opposition in the process."
Earlier, the government had announced that it would hold an all-party conference to seek proposals for a formula under which talks could be initiated with Taliban.
However, the conference has not taken place yet.
Leaders of major opposition parties including the PPP, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Awami National Party and the PML-Q have supported the decision to hold talks with militants.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has stressed on the need for talks with the Pakistani Taliban to end violence in the country that has claimed thousands of lives.
He has said that security is a basic need for fiscal growth and government intends to adopt option of direct talks with Taliban.
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