PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban have nominated the names of five political and religious leaders to mediate peace talks with government negotiators, their spokesman said on Saturday.
The names include Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, Maulana Samiul Haq, former chief cleric of the Lal Masjid in Islamabad Maulana Abdul Aziz, Professor Mohammad Ibrahim of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), and Mufti Kifayatullah, a former lawmaker of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) from Mansehra said to have close ties with the Taliban.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said his government had decided to pursue peace talks with Taliban militants to end years of violence despite a recent spate of attacks.
The premier named a four-member committee comprising his Advisor on National Affairs Irfan Siddique, veteran journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai, former ambassador and expert on Afghanistan affairs Rustam Shah Mohmand and former ISI official Major (Retd) Amir Shah to facilitate the dialogue.
Speaking to Dawn.com on Saturday, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the five “mediators” would facilitate peace talks between the government team and the TTP.
The banned militant group announced the names after a meeting of its central shura (council) which was held at an undisclosed location.
“The Taliban are entering talks with clear intentions and an open heart,” said Shahid.
“Our emir Mullah Fazlullah supports the five-member committee we have nominated.
"Our shura will communicate its stance to the five nominees who will mediate talks with the government team,” he said.
Speaking to DawnNews, Professor Mohammad Ibrahim confirmed that he had been contacted by the TTP to “act as a solicitor” on their behalf.
“It does not matter what side we represent. We will try to fulfill our responsibility to bring peace in the country...and hope that we will be able to achieve lasting peace,” he said.
Maulana Abdul Aziz also confirmed that he had been contacted by the TTP, though he said he would decline to be a part of the process if he feels the government was not serious in negotiations or in implementing Shariah law in the country.
Meanwhile, PTI chief Imran Khan sent a message from his official Twitter account that the "TTP should select their own Taliban representatives 4 (for) peace talks".
However, Khan said the party would discuss how it could assist in the dialogue process at a meeting of its core committee scheduled for Monday.
TTP should select their own Taliban representatives 4 peace talks. We have full faith in the 4 member committee announced by the govt. 1/2— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) February 1, 2014
2/2 However we will discuss how PTI can be of further assistance to further the dialogue in our Core Committee meeting on Monday.— Imran Khan (@ImranKhanPTI) February 1, 2014