Islamabad: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Friday directed a recently formed four-member committee to immediately initiate peace talks with the banned Pakistani Taliban.
Talking to members of the committee here, he expressed his desire to achieve the objective of peace through negotiations.
The committee should immediately establish contacts with groups and factions that are ready to take part in the dialogue process, he said.
Noting that the committee is fully empowered for the dialogue process, Sharif directed Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan to provide required information and resources to the panel.
The meeting was attended by all members of the committee - veteran journalists Irfan Siddiqui and Rahimullah Yusufzai, former diplomat Rustam Shah Mohmand and former Inter-Services Intelligence officer Maj (retired) Muhammad Amir. Siddiqui will act as the committee`s coordinator.
The meeting also touched on topics like the committee`s mandate and rules for negotiations with the militants. It was decided these matters would be discussed in detail at the next meeting.
Amidst mounting speculation about a military offensive against the Taliban following a series of attacks on the security forces, Sharif sprang a surprise on January 29 when he announced the formation of the committee in the National Assembly.
Shrif said he wanted to give peace talks another chance. He has maintained that there is only one precondition for talks - no terrorist attacks during negotiations.
The banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan welcomed the talks offer and is in the process of setting up its own committee to join the dialogue.
Earlier, senior leaders of the ruling PML-N had publicly hinted at a military operation against the Taliban.
The federal and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa governments have been assigned the responsibility of providing security and travel facilities to members of the committee.
Two members of the committee Mohmand and Yusufzai met Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan and sought his recommendations for the proposed talks.
Khan said the committee should ensure a ceasefire and make the talks effective. The committee members briefed him about their authority and directions given to them by the Prime Minister.
Though Sharif did not appoint any of the members as the head of the committee, he announced that the Interior Minister would serve as a focal person for the panel. Sharif will supervise the dialogue process himself.
The government has not specified a timeframe for the peace process or announced modalities for the proposed dialogue.
Critics have pointed that the Taliban used all previous peace deals to consolidate their position in the country`s northwest and adjoining tribal areas. All peace deals with the Taliban collapsed within months, they have said.