Nawaz Sharif asks Pak Govt to consider Taliban talks offer



Lahore: Former premier Nawaz Sharif on Thursday asked the Pakistan government to seriously take up the Taliban's offer for talks, saying there is a need to begin negotiations with the militants without any delay.

In a statement, the leader of the main opposition PML-N party said: "There is a need to take the Taliban's offer (of talks) seriously because the people of Pakistan want peace. I ask the government to initiate result-oriented peace talks with the Taliban without any delay".

He said a war or military operations are "no solution to any problem".

The PML-N advocates the "resolution of such issues through dialogue and not force", he said.

Sharif's remarks came four days after the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said it would hold talks with the government if three top politicians, including Sharif, acted as guarantors for the negotiations.

The Taliban named Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman as possible guarantors.

Referring to the issue of acting as a guarantor, Sharif said, "It will be difficult for anyone to become a guarantor because of the government's credibility record.

However, we fully support talks between the Taliban and the government for peace in Pakistan".

For the sake of the people of Pakistan, the Taliban and the government should begin talks with an "open heart for the peaceful resolution of problems", he said.

Responding to the offer made by Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had said the government would soon decide on the issue.

In the past, the government has insisted that the Taliban must disarm and give up violence before any talks.

The Jamaat-e-Islami has said it will not act as a guarantor while JUI chief Rehman has said he is willing to act as a mediator if he was contacted directly by the Taliban.

The PML-N has often been accused by its opponents of being soft on right and extremist groups.

Senior PML-N leaders like Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah faced criticism after they openly campaigned for polls with leaders of banned groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.

PML-N leaders have participated in meetings and rallies organised by the Defa-e-Pakistan Council, an alliance of hardline groups formed by Lashkar-e-Taiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed.

PTI