Dreaded Pakistani militant faction welcomes talk offer

A dreaded Pakistani Taliban faction today reacted positively to an offer of negotiations from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif but said the country`s foreign policy should be based on Islamic principles.

Last Updated: Aug 22, 2013, 20:26 PM IST

Islamabad: A dreaded Pakistani Taliban faction today?reacted positively to an offer of negotiations from Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif but said the country`s foreign policy should be based on Islamic principles.

Asmatullah Muawiya, who heads the Punjabi Taliban group and is linked to the deadly Lashkar-e-Jhangvi?sectarian outfit, said Sharif had demonstrated "political maturity" by showing flexibility.

"We welcome it...It is possible,? said Muawiya, three days after Sharif remarked in a televised address to the nation that he wants to end the fighting and prefers to do so through talks.

"If the present government takes an interest in solving matters seriously and with prudence, then there is no reason why jihadi forces active in Pakistan should not respond to it positively," Muawiya said in a statement sent to journalists.

But he said Pakistan`s foreign policy should be based on Islamic principles and not "American slavery". He also demanded an end to US drone strikes targeting militants.

In the past, the Pakistani Taliban`s top leadership have backed statements made by Muawiya.

Muawiya`s faction is considered extremely powerful as it has indoctrinated suicide bombers and attacks the security forces and minority Shias at will.
The group is also directly linked with Al Qaeda and has grown more powerful than the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led by tribal warlord Hakimullah Mehsud.

Sharif`s ruling PML-N party allegedly has old connections with hardline religious groups in Punjab and used them to persuade the Punjabi Taliban to accept the offer for talks.

Muawiya also was part of the banned Sipah-e-Sihaba Pakistan that has reemerged as Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal-Jamaat (ASWJ). The PML-N mulled an alliance with the ASWJ before the May 11 polls but dropped the idea after facing criticism for colluding with extremists.

PTI