Nawaz Sharif calls for Taliban talks

May 21, 2013

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Nawaz Sharif talks with his brother Shahbaz Sharif before addressing the newly elected lawmakers belonging to PML-N, during a function in Lahore on May 20, 2013. – Reuters Photo
Nawaz Sharif talks with his brother Shahbaz Sharif before addressing the newly elected lawmakers belonging to PML-N, during a function in Lahore on May 20, 2013. – Reuters Photo

LAHORE: Pakistan’s prime minister-elect Nawaz Sharif Monday called for peace talks with Pakistani Taliban militants at war with the government, potentially charting a course that could put him at odds with the country’s powerful army.

Speaking to the newly elected members of national and provincial assemblies belonging to Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), he said that Taliban offers to talk should be taken seriously.

Nawaz Sharif said ”terrorism” was one of the most serious problems plaguing the country and any offer by the Pakistani Taliban to talk ”should be taken seriously.”

”All options should be tried, and guns are not a solution to all problems,” Sharif said. ”Why shouldn’t we sit and talk, engage in dialogue?”

Sharif said the practice of toppling elected governments through street violence and agitation must be stopped now.

The PML-N chief said the federation will extend an all-out support to Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), given they show resolve to eradicate terrorism and control the prevailing unrest in Karachi.

He said the PML-N respects mandate of other parties and they have the right to form governments in their respective provinces.

Sharif’s party won a resounding victory in the May 11 national election and is set to form the country’s next government.

“The first 30 days in government will show the nation our direction,” said Sharif.

Sharif has pushed for talks with the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) in the past, but this is the first time he has done so publicly since the election.

The Taliban has been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for years that has killed thousands of security personnel and civilians. The militants say they are fighting to enforce Islamic law in the country and end the government’s alliance with the United States.

The Pakistan army has launched multiple operations against the Taliban in their strongholds along the border with Afghanistan, but the militants have proven resilient and continue to carry out near-daily attacks.

Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who met with Sharif on Saturday for the first time since the May 11 election, laid out strict conditions last month for any potential peace deal with the Taliban.

”We sincerely desire that all those who have strayed and have picked up arms against the nation return to the national fold,” Kayani said in a rare public speech. ”However, this is only possible once they unconditionally submit to the state, its constitution and the rule of law,” said the army chief.

The Taliban have shown an inclination to negotiate with Sharif, who is known to be a devout Muslim and whose party has been criticised for not cracking down on Islamic militants in its stronghold of Punjab province.– AP/DawnNews