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February 2, 2014

Taliban name Imran, Sami, Ibrahim,Kifayat, Aziz for peace talks

February 2, 2014

MIRANSHAH: In an unexpected development, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Saturday named a five-member committee including the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) head Imran Khan to represent it in the proposed peace talks with the government-appointed four-member panel.
Talking to The News from an undisclosed location in North Waziristan, the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the names were finalised in their organisation’s central shura meeting after long deliberations spread over four days. He claimed that the consent of those named in the proposed TTP negotiations committee was obtained before announcing their names.
However, several PTI office-bearers and lawmakers said they were taken by surprise by the TTP announcement that mentioned Imran Khan’s name as a member of its negotiations committee.
The other members of the TTP negotiations committee named by Shahidullah Shahid are the JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq, JUI-F former lawmaker Mufti Kifayatullah, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Professor Muhammad Ibrahim Khan and the Lal Masjid Islamabad cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz.
Maulana Samiul Haq, Prof Ibrahim and Maulana Abdul Aziz said they were ready to become members of the TTP committee for holding peace talks with the government.
Mufti Kifayatullah, who was the JUI-F member of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly from Mansehra district in the previous government, said he cannot say anything about the TTP decision yet. Apparently, he wanted to consult his party head Maulana Fazlur Rehman before accepting the TTP offer. Maulana Fazlur Rehman had complained that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hadn’t consulted him on the formation of the government-appointed negotiations committee despite being his ally. He had also expressed reservations about the government’s committee as it didn’t include any religious scholar or tribal elder to deal with issues that would arise in the course of the talks.
According to the TTP spokesman, all the five proposed

members were contacted to obtain their consent. “Imran Khan said he would consult his party leaders before giving his consent. Actually, he liked the idea,” the TTP spokesman claimed.
Prof Ibrahim, who is a former senator, belongs to Bannu on the border with North Waziristan and headed the JI chapter in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, told reporters that the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid and senior leader Qari Shakil had reached him on the phone and obtained his consent.
Maulana Samiul Haq, who had claimed the TTP leadership had agreed to hold talks with the government on his proposal, told members of the media on Saturday that he was ready to be on the TTP’s negotiations team.
Maulana Abdul Aziz, elder brother of the Lal Masjid cleric Abdur Rasheed Ghazi, who was killed in the military operation ordered by General Pervez Musharraf against the Lal Masjid in Islamabad, also readily agreed to sit on the TTP team for negotiating with the government. It is generally believed that the military operation against the militants and students holed up in the Lal Masjid was the cause of an increase in militancy and extremism in Pakistan.
It was learnt that the PML-N-led federal government and its four-member negotiations committee would formally respond to the TTP proposal after holding consultations on the issue. The government-appointed committee, which has held only one meeting yet, includes Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Special Assistant Irfan Siddique, Major (retd) Muhammad Aamir, Rustam Shah Mohmand and Rahimullah Yusufzai.
News Desk adds: TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told Geo News programme ‘Capital Talk’ anchor Hamid Mir over telephone that the Taliban did not want its proposed mediators to be part of the government’s negotiations team.
“Lately, some satellite news channels aired a report claiming the TTP has demanded that these dignitaries should be in the government team, which is misleading and groundless. We never asked them for that, instead we proposed these names for a panel, which would represent the TTP,” Shahidullah Shahid told Hamid Mir.
Hamid Mir said he had also talked to Major Aamir and he welcomed the announcement from the Taliban and said that the team members of the Taliban are easily accessible and they respect the Constitution of Pakistan. “It will be easy to make a breakthrough,” Hamid Mir quoted Major Aamir as saying.
Mumtaz Alvi adds from Islamabad: Turning down the TTP’s idea of representing them in talks with the government’s team, Imran Khan asked the militants to select their own Taliban representative for talks.
In a late night statement, Imran Khan said his party had full faith in the four-member committee announced by the government. “However, we will discuss how the PTI can be of further assistance to further the dialogue process in our core committee meeting on Monday,” he noted.
The Taliban’s demand of having Imran Khan as a member of the committee that would hold dialogue on their behalf with the four-member government team has astonished the PTI leadership.
“Well, no decision has been made yet whether or not Imran will be a part of the Taliban’s team. But this development has put us in a tricky situation,” conceded a central PTI leader, who insisted on anonymity, prior to the issuance of Imran’s statement rejection of the TTP offer.
Talking to The News here, he said that though informal consultations were under way after the Taliban made their demand public, the PTI’s core committee would have its meeting tomorrow (Monday), as scheduled much earlier.

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