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Punjabi Taliban commander welcomes govt's peace talks offer

Published Aug 22, 2013 05:14pm
In this Thursday Aug. 15, 2013 photo, Asmatullah Muawiya, head of the Taliban’s faction of fighters from central Punjab province, listens to reporters at an undisclosed place in the tribal region of Waziristan. -Photo by AP
In this Thursday Aug. 15, 2013 photo, Asmatullah Muawiya, head of the Taliban’s faction of fighters from central Punjab province, listens to reporters at an undisclosed place in the tribal region of Waziristan. -Photo by AP

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: A senior commander of the Punjabi Taliban commander has welcomed the government’s recent offer to hold peace talks.

Asmatullah Muawiya, a principal ally of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and leader of the so-called Punjabi Taliban, said in a statement Thursday that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif demonstrated political maturity by reiterating his offer to hold peace negotiations in a speech over the weekend.

In a his first nationally televised speech to the nation after coming to power in the May 11 general elections, Prime Minister Sharif had offered dialogue to “those elements which unfortunately have taken the course of extremism”.

Muawiya said militants in Pakistan should respond positively if the government is serious about resolving the conflict.

Muawiya is believed to be the head of the Taliban’s faction of fighters from Punjab province.

It’s not entirely certain whether the TTP top leadership shares his sentiments. But they have backed previous statements made by Muawiya, saying he should be seen as having their support.

The TTP withdrew a previous offer to hold peace talks in May after the group’s deputy commander, Waliur Rehman, was killed in a US drone strike.