`Taliban, Pakistan in peace talks’

The talks are focused on the South Waziristan region and could be expanded to try to reach a comprehensive deal.

Last Updated: Nov 21, 2011, 12:22 PM IST

Islamabad: Pakistan`s Taliban movement, a major security threat to the country, is holding exploratory peace talks with the US-backed government, a senior Taliban commander and tribal mediators said on Monday.

The talks are focused on the South Waziristan region and could be expanded to try to reach a comprehensive deal.

The Taliban, which is close to al Qaeda, is making several demands, including the release of prisoners, said the commander. A tribal mediator described the talks as "very difficult”.

The United States, the source of billions of dollars of aid vital for Pakistan`s military and feeble economy, may not look kindly on peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which it has labelled a terrorist group.

Past peace pacts with the TTP have backfired and merely gave the umbrella group time and space to consolidate, launch fresh attacks and impose their austere version of Islam on segments of the population.

"Yes, we have been holding talks but this is just an initial phase. We will see if there is a breakthrough," said the senior Taliban commander, who asked not to be identified.

"Right now, this is at the South Waziristan level. If successful, we can talk about a deal for all the tribal areas."

The TTP, which is allied with the Afghan Taliban movement fighting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan, is entrenched in the unruly tribal areas along the porous border.

Pakistan has come under pressure to eradicate militancy since US special forces in May found and killed Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town, where he had apparently been living for years.

Bureau Report