Pakistan Negotiators Reach 'Taliban Den' to Discuss Peace

Pakistan Negotiators Reach 'Taliban Den' to Discuss Peace

Negotiators for the Pakistani Taliban on Saturday arrived in the capital of restive North Waziristan to brief the Pakistani Taliban about the preliminary round of peace talks held with government representatives, an official said.

Professor Ibrahim Khan and Sayed Yousef arrived in Miranshah to brief the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)on the first round of talks, which aimed to help end the militants’ bloody seven-year insurgency.

An AFP correspondent said the men left in two double cabin SUVs with tinted glass after coming out from the office of the political agent.

North Waziristan is considered a den of the Pakistani Taliban from where they operate with impunity in Pakistan and across the border in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, the government and TTP negotiators issued a joint statement agreeing to work within the framework of Pakistan’s constitution.

The meeting was the first ever formal dialogue between the two sides.

But the talks suffered a fresh blow Friday as one of the negotiators for the militants said he would take no further part until the agenda included the imposition of Islamic sharia law.

There has been widespread scepticism about the chances of the peace initiative achieving a lasting solution to the TTP’s bloody seven-year insurgency.

The government delegation skipped an initial meeting on Tuesday citing confusion over the militants’ team after two members pulled out.

The TTP has killed thousands of people in gun and bomb attacks across the nuclear-armed state since it launched its campaign in 2007.

The start of the year has seen a surge in militant violence with more than 110 people killed, and an air force bombardment of TTP hideouts in North Waziristan fuelled speculation that a major military offensives was imminent.

Stability in nuclear-armed Pakistan is seen as important to neighbouring Afghanistan, where US-led NATO troops are pulling out after more than a decade of war.

Washington has said it is watching the talks closely. It has long been pushing Pakistan to take action against militants using Pakistan’s tribal areas as a base to attack NATO forces across the border.

A famous 2008 peace deal in the Swat Valley resulted in the Taliban taking control of the region.

Government efforts to start peace talks last year came to an abrupt halt in November with the killing of TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike.