NEW YORK: Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said the Taliban would have to renounce terrorism if peace talks were to move forward. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal during his first visit to New York after being elected in May, the prime minister said, a consensus had been reached on a joint strategy to put an end to terrorism in Pakistan through peace talks.
Asserting that the Taliban had disowned the bomb attacks on All Saints Church, he said that the Taliban had not done that before, but the intelligence agencies were still investigating the matter. He revealed that contrary to media reports, the Taliban had also disowned the attack that killed an army general in Dir. “As far as the tragic incidents are concerned, they are unacceptable.
There cannot be any compromise on that,” he added.
Sharif said the Taliban themselves had offered a dialogue and the political parties had decided to respond to the offer positively. However, the Taliban would have to renounce terrorism, he said.
“They will have to say they are keen to do business with the government. They will have to abide by the constitution of Pakistan. We’re also waiting for their response, what they have to say in this regard,” he said.
“If we agree on addressing this terrorism, (Taliban) will have to be disarmed, lay down their arms,” the prime minister added, but made it clear that while the government wanted a peaceful resolution, it hinged on the Taliban laying down their arms and accepting the constitution.
Asked if there was a possibility that Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani will be given an extension, Sharif said no decision had been reached on the subject.
“I’m not saying yes or no. Of course, we will be taking a decision on this issue soon.” Responding to a question about the next army chief, he said, “there’s still time. I’ll handle it.”
Asserting that he was the one who had brought India and Pakistan closer in the his previous stint in power, Sharif said the two neighbouring countries were picking up the threads from where they left off in 1999.
“I will be having a meeting with the Indian prime minister shortly,” he said, adding that his government stood for peaceful resolution of all issues with India, including Kashmir.
Talking about the issue of Siachen, he said both countries’ armies were sitting at an altitude of more than 22,000 feet. “I don’t know what sense it makes in this modern age that armies are sitting at more than 22,000 feet. I think we have to resolve this issue as well.”
Sharif said he had a good rapport with the American government. “President Obama was very kind to call me up immediately after my election and express his desire to work with Pakistan,” he said, asserting that he wanted to work with the US.