ISLAMABAD, April 24: Prime Minister’s Adviser on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik has said the government is holding talks with all tribal leaders in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan, including local Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud, for lasting peace in the country.

“We will give the nation good news very soon regarding the peace initiative,” he told journalists during a visit to National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) headquarters on Thursday.

The adviser lauded the declaration of a ceasefire by Baitullah Mehsud and expressed the hope that he would not back out.

“Tribal people are our brothers and the government will take all possible measures for their uplift and development of their areas,” he said.

He said the government would remove the sense of deprivation of the people of Balochistan and other provinces by bringing them into the mainstream. “People of all provinces will be treated without any discrimination and they will get equal rights.”

Responding to a question, Mr Malik said the government had no intention of withdrawing cases against Maulana Abdul Aziz, former Khatib of Lal Masjid.

However, the government would review all terrorism cases and compensate those proven innocent, he said.

He re-affirmed that the government wanted the assassination of former prime minister re-investigated under the UN auspices.

Replying to a question, Mr Malik referred to media reports saying that Baitullah Mehsud had denied his involvement in the assassination. “A thorough investigation will be conducted into the Liaquat Bagh tragedy and those responsible will be brought to justice,” he said.

Replying to another question, he said lists of foreign teachers and students in the country’s seminaries were being prepared but the government had not yet formulated a policy.

AFP adds: The armed forces on Thursday welcomed the truce offered by Baitullah Mehsud. Baitullah circulated a letter in regions bordering Afghanistan telling his followers to halt attacks on security forces amid peace talks with the government.

“Any cessation of hostilities is a welcome step,” chief military spokesman Maj-Gen Athar Abbas told AFP. “If they cease militant activities it is a good development,” he added.

However, Gen Abbas said, the military had not been informed about the development.

“We have not received anything from them,” he said, adding that tribal elders were negotiating with government officials.



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