Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik speaking to reporters in Islamabad.—File Photo

ISLAMABAD: In a statement made on Monday, Interior Minister Rehman Malik cautiously signaled that the government may be ready to engage the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in peace talks.

Malik said that the government would respond to the Pakistani Taliban’s offer of peace talks within two to three days.

The interior minister’s statement comes a day after TTP spokesman Ehsnaullah Ehsan, appearing in a video interview, had announced the banned militant outfit’s conditions for peace talks with the government.

The Pakistani Taliban called for three top politicians of the country – Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz ( PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) leader Syed Munawar Hasan, and the chief of the Jamiat-i-Ulema Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman – to act as guarantors for negotiations for stopping the armed conflict in the country’s tribal areas.

Speaking to reporters on Monday after examining security arrangements for an opposition march in Islamabad, the interior minister said he had earlier stated that the government was ready for talks, to which the Taliban had responded by putting forward the conditions of having Nawaz Sharif, Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Syed Munawar Hasan as guarantors.

Malik said it would be better if they announced a team of negotiators, adding that peace talks were a positive sign, and that bullets were “not the answer.” The interior minister said that the Pakistani Taliban should specify who they want to negotiate with.

“You tell us what team you would like to talk to, and let’s set an agenda,” he said.

Speaking to reporters earlier on Monday, Maulana Fazlur Rehman had welcomed the TTP’s “positive” demands of making Sharif, Hasan and himself guarantor for holding peace talks with the government. The JUI-F chief had recommended using the platform of FATA’s grand jirga for peace negotiations with the outlaws.

Malik said that the PML-N chief had refused to act a guarantor. However, Malik said that he was so far unable to speak to Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and that he would contact him soon on the matter.

‘SC should take notice of Qadri’s martial law statement’

Malik also urged the Supreme Court to take notice of Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) chief Tahirul Qadri's statements regarding martial law.

Qadri had claimed on Sunday that if he had not given “last warning” to the government for a dialogue and then called off the sit-in at D-Square, Islamabad, martial law would have been imposed in the country.

“Had I avoided deciding about ending the long march and sit-in in Islamabad, the country would have faced the martial law in next five minutes. I did this only to save democracy,” Qadri had said.

Malik said that it was a violation of the constitution to speak of martial law when there was rule of law in the country.

Malik said that he was disappointed by Qadri’s words, and urged the chief justice to take notice of the statement. He said that if Qadri knew martial law would have been imposed within ‘five minutes’, then he should explain why he made that statement and if he had any understanding or knowledge.

“In the presence of democracy and the constitution, speaking of martial law is unlawful and against the constitution,” said the interior minister.

Updated Feb 04, 2013 06:58pm

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