ISLAMABAD: The government negotiators holding talks with the Taliban are anxiously waiting for a reply from the leadership of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan to the conditions set by them.
“We have put two conditions - talks will be held within the parameters of the Constitution and their scope will be limited to insurgency-affected areas of the tribal belt,” a member of the government’s committee said. He said now the ball is in the Taliban’s court and the future of peace negotiations, which began on Thursday, would be determined by their response.
“For us the thing of foremost importance is to uphold the sanctity of the Constitution during the talks.” He said if the militants refused to accept the Constitution, as explained by Maulana Abdul Aziz at a press conference on Friday, the situation would put the government in a tight spot.
Lal Masjid cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz, one of the three members of the TTP negotiating team, had told the media that the Taliban would hold talks only if the government agreed to enforce Shariah.
But the government negotiator said: “I hope the TTP will not come up with a condition which will scuttle the peace process. They should and must let its committee hold negotiations so that the two sides can find some common ground.”
In reply to a question, he said the negotiations could go on if the TTP demanded a ceasefire and exchange of prisoners, but if the Taliban didn’t accept the Constitution “the government cannot defend its stand to hold talks with the militants”.
During the first round of talks, the TTP committee, besides seeking clarification about the jurisdiction of the government team, also demanded meetings with the prime minister, the army chief and the director general of the Inter-Services Intelligence.
Irfan Siddiqui, special assistant to the prime minister; Rustam Shah Mohmand, a former ambassador to Afghanistan; senior journalist Rahimullah Yousufzai and a former ISI operative retired Major Amir Khan are members of the government team. Maulana Samiul Haq, Professor Mohammad Ibrahim and Maulana Abdul Aziz are the TTP negotiators.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid said yesterday that the official committee had not yet forwarded to the government the Taliban team’s request for its meeting with the prime minister, the army chief and the ISI director general. He said he would not speak much on the issue as both teams had been holding talks. “The committees should be given an opportunity to work for peace in the country.”
The minister said no timeframe could be given for conclusion of the process. “We are striving for peace and it is our destination,” he said. He said the government was capable of tackling it if any deadlock came in the way of the dialogue process as it wanted peace.
In reply to a question about foreign interference in securing safe exit for Gen Musharraf, he said enemies of law and the Constitution should never be spared and they should be brought to justice.