ISLAMABAD: A four-member committee tasked to hold peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban and end years of bloodshed says it has been given an open mandate and complete authority to initiate the dialogue process.
At the first meeting of the committee on Friday morning, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif gave guidelines for holding negotiations, discussed in detail the framework and strategy for the talks, and instructed the team to immediately initiate the process.
The four member committee formed by the prime minister comprises of his Special Assistant on National Affairs Irfan Siddiqui, veteran journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, former ambassador and expert on Afghanistan affairs Rustam Shah Mohmand, and former ISI official Major (retd) Amir Shah.
Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan was also present at the committee meeting.
According to sources, the meeting also touched upon topics in the committee's mandate and rules of negotiations with militants, which would be discussed in detail during the next meeting.
Irfan Siddiqui was appointed as coordinator of the group, and he would inform the prime minister and interior minister of any progress made.
Speaking at a press conference after the meeting, Siddiqui said that the team has conveyed its message to the militants. He called on the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to announce its team of negotiators as soon as possible after a meeting of its Shura (council).
He said that the Taliban should communicate and explain their stance on the peace talks as soon as possible so the dialogue process can be initiated.
He said that the committee was waiting for a response from the Taliban, and was ready to hold negotiations wherever they wished.
The committee wishes to enter the dialogue with open hearts and without any preconditions, he said.
He added that the committee may involve the services of other individuals to facilitate talks if it feels the need to do so.
Earlier, the Federal and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments were assigned with the responsibility to provide security and travel facilities to the members of the committee.
Premier Sharif had only one precondition for talks, which he had explained in the National Assembly on Wednesday that there should be no terrorist attacks during negotiations.