Pak Taliban deny reports of secret peace talks with government
Peshawar: The Pakistani Taliban on Saturday denied it was holding secret peace talks with the government, saying all reports about parleys were "complete propaganda".
Shahidullah Shahid, the spokesman for the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), told reporters in the country`s northwest on phone that his group was not holding any secret peace talks.
He said media reports about talks were not true as the Taliban Shura (Council) is yet to decide on the issue.
"I categorically deny the holding of peace talks on any level between the Taliban and Pakistani government," he said.
"No contacts have even been made between us, nor have we received any offer to initiate peace talks. It is complete propaganda, the government must make it public if it has any proof of any such talks," Shahid said.
Most Pakistani newspapers today carried reports of talks between the Taliban and the government.
"Unofficial talks between the government side and Taliban are in progress," Information Minister Pervez Rashid was quoted as saying by the Dawn daily.
Rashid said the government was exploring all options to restore lasting peace in the country and was in contact with Taliban at different levels.
He endorsed a statement by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman that a formula had been chalked out for holding formal talks with the Taliban within a month.
Yesterday, Rehman told reporters in Parliament House that a forum comprising authoritative and responsible people was being formed for talks with the Taliban.
Rashid said the government was ready to negotiate with any Taliban faction interested in talks.
The reports of peace talks emerged almost two weeks after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif offered a dialogue to extremists in his first televised address to the nation since taking office in June.
The TTP last Saturday expelled a key Punjabi Taliaban commander for welcoming Sharif`s call for dialogue. Ismatullah Muawiya, the head of the TTP in Punjab province, had said the prime minister had shown maturity.
Leaders of major opposition parties, including the PPP, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, Awami National Party and the PML-Q, have supported the decision to hold talks with militants.
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