ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has turned to Maulana Samiul Haq, the chief of his own faction of Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-S), for help in initiating talks with Taliban, in effect ruling out any major role for Maulana Fazlur Rehman.
“The prime minister has asked me to help initiate the dialogue process,” Maulana Sami told Dawn after an hour-long one-to-one meeting with Mr Sharif.
The JUI-S chief said he had assured the prime minister of his full cooperation and told him that he would make every possible effort to bring the Taliban to the table.
He said he would keep Mr Sharif informed about developments after contacting the Taliban leadership.
The 76-year-old Maulana, who is also known as the “father of Taliban” and considered to have close contacts with them, had several times in the recent past offered to play a role in the government’s efforts for peace talks with the militants.
However, Maulana Sami whose party has no representation in parliament had so far been kept out of government’s move to devise its strategy in consultation with his rival, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazl.
It is believed that the government has decided to work in cooperation with Maulana Sami on the basis of reports that his potential role in talks with Taliban has increased with the change in the leadership of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) after the killing of its chief Hakeemullah Mehsud in a US drone strike on Nov 1.
Maulana Sami who runs Darul Uloom Haqqania in Akora Khattak is reported to have maintained links with the new TTP chief, Moulvi Fazlullah, and his deputy Sheikh Khalid Haqqani.
“The student-teacher relationship is there,” Maulana Sami said when asked about his ‘good relations’ with new Taliban leaders. “He himself says so” was the Maulana’s reply when asked if Khalid Haqqani had studied in his Madressah.
He said the prime minister had told him that the government wanted to resolve the (terrorism) issue through dialogue.
He said he had asked the prime minister to ensure that the US would not sabotage peace efforts in future.
“I have asked him to get out of the war that has been imposed on us,” he said, adding that the government would have to convince the Americans that dialogue was in the best interest of Pakistan.
The Maulana said he had also asked the prime minister to ensure implementation of resolutions of parliament and decisions of the all-party conferences regarding drone attacks and to revisit the foreign policy.
When asked about the role of Maulana Fazl, he said it was everyone’s duty to contribute to efforts for peace in the country. “We want to take all the people along.”
He said anyone could be asked to play a role if such a demand was made by the Taliban.
He added that the government would have to review its policies against terrorism and halt actions against militants in North Waziristan where a number of innocent people had died in the recent military action.
When contacted, Jan Achakzai, a spokesman for the JUI-F chief, said no individual, be it Maulana Fazl or Maulana Sami, could play any effective role in eliminating terrorism and restoring peace without the involvement of local people in the process.
He said all previous efforts had failed because of non-participation of local people and the JUI-F believed that peace in the region was possible only through the participation of a tribal jirga in the process.
He claimed that the JUI-F was the only party which could play a positive role in making the government’s peace efforts a success. “However, we wish good luck for Maulana Samiul Haq if he can bring peace,” he said.
However, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan denied that the government had given a mandate to any person to hold talks with Taliban
Talking to reporters after inaugurating a passport office in Rawalpindi, he said Maulana Sami had not been assigned any task and a government team was working to work out a strategy for the talks. The talks, he said, would be held in the light of the decision of the APC held in September.
He also said that no operation was under way in North Waziristan.