The minimum agenda is that they give up arms and come forward and then there will be talks: Rehman Malik.—APP photo

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan will only hold peace talks with Taliban insurgents if they lay down their arms first, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Tuesday, after both sides signalled willingness to consider negotiations.

“The minimum agenda is that they give up arms and come forward and then there will be talks. But if they think they will keep Kalashnikovs in their hands and also hold talks, that will not happen,” he told reporters.

Both sides have indicated recently they were open to talks, but analysts are sceptical the Taliban will ultimately agree.

“The government is saying accept the constitution and lay down arms. But the militants have other aims. They want to take over, gain power. They think negotiations are a joke,” said security analyst Mahmood Shah.

“How can you talk to groups that don't even respect the concept of Pakistan, never mind laying down arms?”

The Tehrik-i-Taliban, or Taliban Movement of Pakistan (TTP), have been waging a campaign of attacks including suicide bombings across the South Asian nation since 2007 in a bid to topple the government.

A series of army offensives against Pakistani Taliban strongholds along the rugged mountainous border with Afghanistan has failed to contain the group, which is close to al Qaeda and is the biggest security threat to Pakistan.

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