Parties-Jirga-Talks-670
Jamaat-i-Islami leader Syed Munawar Hassan, PML-N Chief Nawaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan attend the all parties conference hosted by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl). — Photo by Tanveer Shahzad

PESHAWAR: Pakistani Taliban militants have welcomed the five-point declaration of an All Parties Conference (APC) called by the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam – Fazl (JUI-F) for steps to restore peace in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas.

Mainstream political and religious parties and civil society groups agreed at the moot on Thursday to negotiate peace with militant elements through a broadened tribal jirga earlier formed by JUI-F.

“The political parties have sent a positive message by excluding the word terrorism from the joint declaration. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) shura (council) gives it high regards,” Ehsanullah Ehsan, spokesmen for the banned militant outfit, told Dawn.com on Friday via telephone from an undisclosed location.

The spokesman, however, said that Pakistani Taliban was still waiting for a “positive response” from the Pakistani military on the offer of peace talks with the militants.

Ehsan said that Taliban council also respected the gesture of all the political and non-political forces which have shown confidence in the members of the tribal jirga and have tasked them for holding peace talks. “We welcome and respect this decision,” he said.

The Taliban spokesman said a serious sitting for peace would help assess the seriousness of the government, the army and other stakeholders in moving ahead with the peace process. He said that such a step would also help judge “the powers of the jirga for holding such talks independently.”

Asked if the militants were willing to endorse a ceasefire and seize attacks on Pakistani security forces, the spokesman said: “It will only begin when we are on the table (for peace talks).”

“Ceasefire and such modalities can be discussed when we kick start the peace process,” he said.

To another query about announcing the TTP jirga team, which will be coming forward for the peace talks, he said:

“If most of the country’s forces can agree and build consensus on some figures to be part of the jirga, the Taliban will also propose their own names,” he said when asked about members of the team which may engage in peace negotiations. He, however, declined to disclose any names.

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