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Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Syed Munawar Hassan, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Dr Farooq Sattar and other politicians talk with each other at JUI-F’s APC in Islamabad on Thursday. – Photo by Online

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s government should take immediate steps to initiate peace talks with Taliban militants, says a declaration by the All Parties Conference (APC) called to discuss ways to restore peace in the country’s militancy-hit tribal areas.

The APC, summoned by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F) and attended by major political parties and tribal leaders, also agreed on using the platform of a grand tribal jirga for peace negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban militants.

The declaration also agreed on expanding the membership of the grand jirga to include stakeholders representing all schools of thought.

The APC statement also emphasised on taking steps towards peace, keeping in consideration the law and the writ of the government.

The main ruling Pakistan People Party (PPP) and the leading opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), assured their complete support for steps taken for the establishment of peace in the country.

Addressing the conference, PML-N President Nawaz Sharif urged all political parties to play their due role in meeting challenges faced by the country.

Sharif said that the offer of dialogue by the Pakistani Taliban should be taken seriously. He said that today not only Pakistan, but the entire region was plagued by terrorism.

He congratulated the JUI-F for convening the APC,  adding: “We should keep aside our political differences and play our due role in maintaining peace in the country.”

PPP President Makhdoom Amin Faheem said that his party would support every step taken for peace in accordance with the Constitution.

Speaking earlier at the inaugural address of the APC, the JUI-F chief said that talks with Pakistani Taliban militants would be useless without taking the military into confidence. Fazl also stressed that peace in Pakistan’s tribal region is closely linked to peace in neighbouring Afghanistan.

“Peace in the tribal areas is linked to peace in Afghanistan. We should put the past behind us and move forward towards peace talks,” said Rehman.

Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid Secretary General Mushahid Hussain asked that if dialogue with India could be pursued, then why not with the Taliban.

The moot was also attended by Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) chief Syed Munawar Hassan, MQM Deputy Convener Dr Farooq Sattar, PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, former Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Akram Durrani, Mehmood Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party (PKMAP), tribal elders and other leaders.