Taliban leader says peace talks on, authorities deny

Taliban`s fugitive leader Maulvi Faqir Mohammad said the government had released 145 militants as a goodwill gesture.

Islamabad: Pakistani Taliban`s fugitive
leader Maulvi Faqir Mohammad has said that he is holding peace
talks with the government and a deal could be signed by the
two sides "very soon", a claim rejected by local authorities
and another militant commander.

Mohammad said the government had released 145 militants
as a goodwill gesture and halted military operation in Bajaur
Agency, one of the seven semi-autonomous tribal districts
along the border with Afghanistan.

In return, the militants had pledged a ceasefire, he told
several reporters in Peshawar yesterday from an unknown

"Talks with the government are in progress and both sides
are likely to sign a peace deal very soon," he told the media.

"We have no wish to fight against our armed forces and
destroy our country. If the government stops killing its own
people and pulls out of the US-led war against humanity, then
there is no need for us to fight against the state," he said.

However, another militant commander who introduced
himself as Mullah Dadullah and claimed to be the Taliban
leader in Bajaur Agency rejected Mohammad`s statement and
denied peace talks were being held with the government.

He said it was Mohammad`s personal decision to enter into
talks with the government and this should not be considered
the unanimous decision of the Taliban in Bajaur or the
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Fazal Karim Khattak, the Additional Chief Secretary for
the tribal areas, too denied peace talks or contacts with the
militants. "Faqir Mohammad`s claim is baseless and a pack of
lies," he said.

The government will hold talks only with those people who
surrender weapons and give up militancy, Khattak said.

Mohammad told one reporter that the negotiations with the
government were going in the right direction.

"If we succeed in signing a peace agreement in Bajaur,
then the Taliban in other places such as Swat, Mohmand,
Orakzai, Darra Adam Khel, Kurram and South Waziristan tribal
regions will ink peace accords with the government in their
respective areas," he said.

The proposed peace deal in Bajaur agency will be a "role
model for other areas" and if the talks are fruitful, the same
formula will be applied in all areas where the Taliban are
fighting the government and armed forces, Mohammad said.

Mohammad appeared to give the impression that the
government and Taliban would soon sign a peace agreement in
Bajaur Agency to pave the way for negotiations and subsequent
accords in other troubled areas, The News daily reported.

In Bajaur Agency, Mohammad said, the government and
Taliban had stopped fighting to give peace a chance and to
enable a `jirga` or council of tribal elders and some
government and security officials to find a peaceful

The steps taken by the government in a recent All Parties
Conference had helped restore the trust of Taliban groups in
state institutions, Mohammad said.

The Taliban were earlier reluctant to seriously consider
peace offers as the government had lost its credibility by
arresting senior Taliban commanders in Swat after they were
invited for talks, he added.

Asked about denials regarding the peace talks by the
Taliban leadership and its spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan,
Mohammad said the central militant leadership had unanimously
decided that initially the Taliban in Bajaur would hold talks
with the government and if their negotiations proved
successful, then the Taliban in other areas would negotiate
with the government.

Mohammad said the government had made "changes in polices
towards the Taliban and tribal regions and seemed to be
serious" about peace talks.

He felt the government had realised there was "no
military solution to the conflict in Pakistan as the Taliban
had picked up guns for a cause".

The government will have to show flexibility and restore
trust of the Taliban groups by releasing prisoners and
stopping military operations in the tribal belt, he said.

Mohammad fled Bajaur Agency after the military launched
an operation there in August 2008 and he now operates from
Kunar province of Afghanistan.

In an apparent reference to Pakistan`s Shamsi airbase, he
said Taliban wanted Pakistan`s airspace, sea and land to be
controlled and used by Pakistani people and not by another
Islamic country, an obvious reference to the United Arab

"Pakistan has given this airbase to the UAE, which gave
it to the US and they used it for their unmanned spy planes to
kill thousands of innocent Pakistani people in the tribal
areas," he said.


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