KARACHI: The Pakistani Taliban militants Saturday assailed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for changing his mind and giving preconditions of weapon lay down for the APC-backed peace talks with them.
The comments appeared to have been sparked by an interview Sharif made with the Wall Street Journal during a trip to New York, in which he said militants must lay down their arms and follow the constitution. Previously the prime minister had not given preconditions for the talks.
The prime minister had also indicated during his meeting with US Secretary of State John Kerry that while seeking a dialogue with the Taliban, the government is also considering a more vigorous police and military action against them should the talks fail.
A spokesman for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), while criticizing Sharif in an interview to a local news magazine, said his government was not serious about holding peace talks.
The spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, did not explicitly reject the offer but his words gave little room for negotiations.
“By telling us that we will have to lay down arms and respect the constitution, the prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, showed that he is following the policy of America and its allies,” the spokesman said.
Declining to accept the writ and authority of the PML-N government, Shahid said: “He (Nawaz Sharif) is talking about laying down arms and accepting the Constitution. If we were willing to do that, there would be no need to have any kind of dialogue.”
“We will hold talks with (the government) only when it gets the authority to take decisions.”
Replying to a query about proof of Sharif’s ‘authority,’ he said there were three steps required for confidence-building; pull out the Army from FATA, release of Taliban prisoners, and end to US drone attacks in Pakistan.
“We will present our terms and conditions when we sit down for dialogue. What we have already mentioned are not conditions or preconditions, they are steps the government must take to build confidence and prove they have authority,” he added.
Answering a question regarding repercussions of a full-scale military operation against the militants, he said, “The operation against us has been going on for the last 10 years already. We have become used to it. We even welcome it.”