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ANP gets in touch with local Taliban

March 30, 2008

PESHAWAR, March 29: The Awami National Party and the local Taliban have formally made contacts to negotiate peace and find a solution to the growing militancy in the NWFP and tribal areas.

The ANP has already expressed its desire of bringing all hostile quarters to the negotiating table to work out a lasting solution to the war-like situation along the Durand Line and in some settled districts of the province. The local Taliban had welcomed the ANP’s move, sources told Dawn.

ANP central information secretary Zahid Khan confirmed that his party was in contact with the Taliban. “Yes, the ANP has been in contact only with the local Taliban, but Amir Haider Hoti (the chief minister-designate of the NWFP) will formally announce modalities for talks after assuming the charge,” he told Dawn on Saturday.

NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani is likely to administer oath to Mr Hoti by Tuesday evening after getting ascertainment from the provincial assembly.

Mr Hoti has already announced that his government will hold talks with militants in order to maintain peace in the province. He said ANP president Asfandyar Wali Khan had conveyed to a US delegation led by Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher that his party would negotiate with the local Taliban to find an amicable solution to the problem.

ANP sources said the Taliban had agreed to initiate peace talks, adding that tribal elders had been facilitating negotiations between the ANP and the local Taliban.

The Taliban have welcomed the ANP’s victory in the elections and congratulated the party leadership. “Greetings have been extended to the ANP leadership and Mullah Omar has praised party’s victory in the elections,” said a senior officer-bearer of the ANP.

However, he said he did not know exactly whether Mullah Omar of Afghanistan had greeted the party or it was a local Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.

Militant commander Maulvi Faqir Mohammad recently told a public meeting in Bajaur that his men had started negotiations with the ANP. He claimed that the ANP had taken an initiative and offered talks to the Taliban.The sources said that Tahrik Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud had also offered his cooperation to the new government for resolving the crisis.