Taliban panel for govt talks includes Imran Khan

February 02, 2014 - 5:03:28 am
MIRANSHAH: The Pakistani Taliban yesterday said cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan would be one of five members of a committee set up to hold talks with the government.

The announcement came days after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif named a similar team to facilitate dialogue with the extremists, who have waged a deadly insurgency since 2007.

“The committee members will hold talks with their interlocutors in the government’s team on our behalf and put forth our point of view,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said.

Khan is joined by the chief cleric of Islamabad’s Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz, and three senior religious party leaders: Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, Mufti Kifayatullah and Professor Ibrahim Khan.

Khan, leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, has been a vocal supporter of negotiating with insurgents. His spokesperson, Shireen Mazari, said: “Our position is very clear. We have full confidence in the committee formed by the government.”

Aziz said the committee was a “noble cause”.

“I will continue to be part of the committee if the government shows sincerity in looking into (Taliban) demands — and of course the major demand is enforcement of Shariah law in the country,” he said.

Experts expressed doubt yesterday that much would come from the establishment of the two committees, suggesting the Taliban were not committed to talks.

“The TTP’s strategy is to avoid a military action until end of 2014, when international troops withdraw from Afghanistan,” security analyst Hasan Askari said.

“This will help them join hands with Afghan Taliban and focus full attention on securing control of the tribal regions.”