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Taliban enters talks to end terror campaign against Pakistan

Friday, 7 February 2014 - 9:39am IST | Place: Alif Kacha, Pakistan | Agency: Daily Telegraph
The Taliban met the Pakistani government for the first time yesterday (Thursday) in a last-ditch attempt to end the group's seven-year campaign of terror.

The Taliban met the Pakistani government for the first time yesterday (Thursday) in a last-ditch attempt to end the group's seven-year campaign of terror.

Critics believe that the talks will provide the Pakistani Taliban with undue legitimacy, but will fail because the militants will refuse to give up fighting unless the government agrees to free imprisoned militants, withdraw from tribal areas and change its constitution - none of which the country's leaders is prepared to do.

The militants have already won one victory: the United States paused its drone programme to allow Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistani prime minister, the political space to conduct negotiations.

The head representative of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has conducted a terror campaign in the country since 2007 to topple the government and establish a Sharia state, read out a joint statement at the end of the meeting in Islamabad.

"The government team has laid down four basic conditions: that all talks be held within the framework of the constitution; that the scope of the talks should remain confined to areas disturbed by violence, and not to the entire country; that all hostilities should cease during talks, and that talks should be swift," he said.

Those conditions, he added, would be relayed to the Taliban leadership for approval.

Mr Sharif was elected last year on a campaign of promising to seek a negotiated end to the conflict. Diplomats believe his hopes of improving the economy rest on better security.

Talat Masood, a retired general, said he did not expect the Taliban to agree to a ceasefire, which would force Pakistan to announce a military operation against the Islamists. Previous government ceasefires have merely provided time and space for militants to rearm and reorganise.

The Pakistani Taliban is an umbrella group of Islamists, sectarian terrorists and criminal gangs which operates from North and South Waziristan near the Afghan border. It was linked with the failed 2010 Times Square bombing and with the 2009 suicide attack on Camp Chapman in Afghanistan, which used a triple agent to kill seven American CIA officers, an Afghan and a Jordanian intelligence chief. It also claimed responsibility for trying to kill the 15-year-old schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.




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