Pakistan Taliban Commander Confirms Peace Talks With Government

Posted December 10th, 2011 at 10:55 am (UTC-5)
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A senior Pakistani Taliban leader says the militant group has entered into peace talks with the government.

Deputy Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad told reporters on Saturday that talks were going in the right direction and that the group may soon sign a formal agreement with authorities.

Mohammad, whose fighters operate in the Bajaur tribal agency, said any deal could be a “role model” for the rest of the border region.

When asked about the Taliban's claims, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in televised interview that his government has followed a policy of “dialogue, deterrence and development” against militancy and that it is a “continuous” process.

In September, the Pakistani government said it was prepared to “give peace a chance” with militants.

The United States, the source of billions of dollars of aid to Pakistan, is not likely to support peace moves with the Pakistani Taliban, which Washington regards as a terrorist group.

A Taliban spokesman, and Pakistan's military and government last month denied that peace negotiations were taking place.

Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said the militant group would have to rid itself of weapons before any such talks could begin.

The government has cut peace deals with the Pakistani Taliban in the past, but they have largely fallen apart. Critics have said the agreements allow the militants to regroup and rebuild their strength to resume fighting the government and foreign troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

It also is not clear if the Pakistani Taliban is united enough as a group to actually strike a lasting deal.

The military has claimed that troops have cleared Bajaur of militants following operations in the tribal agency in recent years.

Pakistan has come under pressure to eradicate militancy since U.S. special forces in May killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani town, where he had apparently been living for years.