03/13/2014, 00.00
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Islamabad revives peace talks with the Taliban. But the army is ready to intervene

by Jibran Khan
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announces a new committee, called to resume talks with the Islamists. Taliban leadership yet to respond. The military study plan of attack in case talks fail. The Archbishop of Lahore appeals to young people and calls for "peaceful coexistence".

Islamabad ( AsiaNews) - The government of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif yesterday announced the creation of a new committee tasked with reviving peace talks with the Taliban. Both sides have signed a ceasefire to facilitate the resumption of negotiations, while the army is readying - in case of failure - a large-scale offensive against the Islamists. After weeks of stalemate, Islamabad is seeking to give a new impetus to the talks with the Tehreek - e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which has so far tied its surrender to a complete "Islamization" and "Talibanisation" of the state. After a meeting with the leader of the PTI (Pakistan Tehrik-e- Insaf ) Imran Khan , the Prime Minister listed the members of the new team; an expert on the tribal areas, a former diplomat and a close associate of the Prime Minister's.

The government launched peace talks with the Taliban in January, followed by the presentation last month of the first Code of Conduct on national security. Neither initiative stopped the spiral of Islamic extremist violence that has bloodied the country for some time now. If, on the one hand, the TTP has vowed to respect the cease- fire, on the other, Taliban militia groups have attacked institutions, police stations and military targets on several occasions. In response, the army has carried out a series of raids in the tribal areas against Islamist strongholds.

Today the government and the Taliban have re-launched a ceasefire and negotiations. This morning, the Taliban negotiators left for Waziristan, where they will meet the leaders of the TTP and present the conditions of peace posed by the executive. The second phase of the dialogue is linked to the Taliban leadership's response. Meanwhile, senior army officers are preparing a large-scale military operation to strike and destroy the extremist forces in the case of "black smoke" from the peace talks.

Speaking at a conference Archbishop Sebastian Shaw of Lahore, said that "tolerance and harmony are essential at this stage", and calls on all religious leaders "to promote peaceful coexistence". The prelate focused on "the younger generation" who need to be taught these principles, while "hatred and discrimination must be fought with force and at all levels".

Scholars and national policy experts, such as Prof. Syed Abid Ali, were harsher in their comments.  He believs that "the government should not communicate with people who have mercilessly killed and attacked innocent citizens and our army". Maulana Arif Ja, a Muslim leader, is concerned about "the existence and sovereignty of Pakistan: the dialogues are a way to waste time, and give TTP the chance to regroup" and hit with renewed vigor. "Their belief - he added - is to slaughter anyone against their ideology. It is a shame that the government wants to negotiate with these barbarians."


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