PESHAWAR: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif Thursday said his government was sincere about holding peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, after rebel chief Hakimullah Mehsud complained no serious steps had been taken to open a dialogue.
Speaking after a security meeting in the troubled northwestern city of Peshawar, Sharif said progress was being made on the issue of opening negotiations.
The premier was accompanied by Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Information Minister Pervez Rashid and his Advisor on National Security and Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz on the occasion.
Bomb attacks have also hit all four provincial capitals and Bannu district in Pakistan killing ten, wounding more than 60 on Thursday.
His statement came a day after the broadcast of a BBC interview in which Mehsud said he was ready to sit down for talks but the government had “not taken any serious steps.”
Alleging the government for not being able to take any substantial step towards peace talks, Mehsud said his Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) outfit would not hold dialogue (with the government) through the ‘media.’
“The government is sincere about solving the issue of terrorism through talks with Taliban,” Sharif told the meeting in Peshawar.
“We are seriously implementing the decision jointly taken by the All Parties' Conference (APC) for dialogue with Taliban.”
The prime minister deplored that the previous regimes did not take the matter of terrorism seriously. “Had this problem was taken seriously by the previous governments, the situation would not have gone intractable today, he added.
“We have laid the hands to settle this problem and invited suggestions from all the stakeholders to arrest this issue once and for all,” said the premier.
TTP chief Mehsud had blamed Pakistan governments for failing previous peace initiatives.
“The government of Pakistan bombs innocent tribal people due to the pressure of America... Drone strikes conducted by Americans were (backed) by Pakistan. Then the Americans pressed Pakistan to start ground operations in these areas, and Pakistan complied,” he said in Wednesday’s interview.
The main Pakistani political parties last month backed a government proposal to seek negotiations with the militants, who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the state since 2007.
But the umbrella TTP faction, a loose coalition of militant groups led by Mehsud since 2009, responded with a list of preconditions.
These included a government ceasefire, end to US drone strikes in Pakistan, release of Taliban prisoners and the withdrawal of troops from the tribal areas along the Afghan border where the militants have hideouts.
Ongoing violence, including a recent wave of bombings in the northwestern city of Peshawar that killed more than 140 people within a week, has prompted many to question the proposed negotiations.
After the high-level meeting on law and order, Prime Minister Sharif met with the relatives of those killed and wounded in the terrorist attacks including twin suicide blasts at Peshawar’s All Saints church and expressed his condolence and sympathies.
The prime minister moreover announced 200 million rupees compensation for the families of the victims.
Mehsud, who has a $5 million US government bounty on his head, told the BBC he would continue to target the United States and its allies, and that talks were dependent on an end to US drone strikes.
The TTP is blamed for killing thousands of people in its war against the Pakistani state in recent years– AFP/APP/Dawn.com