ISLAMABAD: Negotiators representing Pakistani Taliban insurgents said Wednesday there was no chance of peace in Pakistan until the government embraces Islamic Sharia law and US-led forces withdraw completely from neighbouring Afghanistan.
The tough conditions appear to deal a blow to hopes that peace talks with the Pakistani government could end the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) insurgency that has rocked the country since 2007.
Maulana Samiul Haq, the head of the TTP's three-man talks team, told news agency AFP there could be “no peace” in the region while there were still US troops across the border.
His comments were echoed by his fellow TTP negotiator Maulana Abdul Aziz, who also said the TTP's long-held commitment to imposing sharia law across Pakistan was not open to debate.
“Without sharia law, the Taliban won't accept (the talks) even one per cent,” he said. “If some factions accept it, then the others won't accept it.”
“Their real agenda is sharia,” Aziz said, suggesting that all Pakistan's secular courts based on the common law system be abolished.
“I don't think the government will accept this but they should, because war isn't the way forward.”
On Afghanistan, Aziz said an endorsement of the security pact with Washington would scupper hopes for regional peace.
“We think these (Afghanistan and Pakistan) are two brotherly countries. Peace in Pakistan means peace in Afghanistan and vice versa,” he said.
If Afghanistan signs the agreement, he said, “war will continue, and the clash between Muslims and the US will continue.”
“If the agreement goes ahead, then the losses they (US) have experienced before, they will experience once again,” he added.
“If Americans remain in Afghanistan, there will be no peace in the region, it will be same, it will be unsafe,” said Samiul Haq.
Talks expected to begin tomorrow
Meanwhile, the coordinator of the government’s four-member committee said that peace talks are expected to begin in a day or two.
Speaking to DawnNews on Wednesday, Irfan Siddiqui said that negotiations between the two committees would take place soon. He, however, added that the time and place for the meeting had not been determined as yet.
Initial peace talks failed to get under way Tuesday when the government delegation refused to meet the militants’ negotiators, citing confusion about the make-up of their team.
However, Siddiqui said Wednesday that ambiguities regarding TTP negotiating team had now been clarified.
Siddiqui said that the government negotiators had no objection to the composition of the three-member Taliban team for peace talks.
He said that the government team wanted to start the dialogue process the previous day, but was waiting for some clarity from the Taliban side. However, he said, the confusion was cleared after a statement by TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.
The TTP had initially nominated Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan, head of the Darul Uloom Haqqania seminary Maulana Samiul Haq, 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).
However, Imran Khan and Mufti Kifayatullah later refused to be part of the TTP committee.
In a statement Tuesday, the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said that Samiul Haq and his two colleagues had their blessing to go ahead with the negotiations without Khan or Kifayatullah.
“The three-member committee is final now and we have our full confidence in it to hold talks,” he said.