MIRANSHAH: The Pakistani Taliban said yesterday they had had “no contact” by the government, a day after officials said a process to initiate peace talks had been started.
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has been edging towards peace talks to end the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) bloody six-year struggle against the state, which has left thousands dead.
Last month Sharif won the backing of the main political parties to go ahead with dialogue, and the powerful army chief has voiced his support.
Officials said on Thursday that the “process of dialogue” had started but no formal talks had taken place yet.
Shahidullah Shahid, the main spokesman for the TTP, said that there had been no overtures.
“No one has yet contacted us. The government is making announcements only by media, no peace talks have yet been started,” Shahid said.
“The beginning of peace talks means sitting at a table and discussing issues, no such thing has yet happened.”
After political parties gave their backing to talks in September, the TTP issued a list of preconditions, including the release of all its members from Pakistan jails and the withdrawal of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghan border, where the militants have hideouts.
Shahid reiterated the demands and said the government must fulfil them to prove it is serious about talks.
The TTP also demanded an end to US drone strikes.
A spate of bloody terror attacks in the northwestern city of Peshawar further soured the mood for talks, but ministers have said they were keen to press on.
Sharif told British Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg during a meeting in London on Thursday that “dialogue with the Taliban has started”, according to the Pakistani High Commission.
But officials in Islamabad clarified that no direct contact had yet been made with the militants.