Taliban confirms peace talks with Pakistan
Islamabad, December 10, 2011
The deputy commander of the Pakistan Taliban, who have been waging a four-year war against the government in Islamabad, confirmed the two sides were in peace talks, a move that could further fray the US-Pakistan relationship.
"Our talks are going in the right direction," Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, the commander of the Pakistani Taliban in the Bajaur tribal agency and the No. 2 commander overall, told Reuters.
"If negotiations succeed and we are able to sign a peace agreement in Bajaur, then the government and the Taliban of other areas such as Swat, Mohmand, Orakzai and South Waziristan tribal region will sign an agreement. Bajaur will be a role model for other areas."
At the end of September, Pakistan's government pledged to "give peace a chance" and talk with its homegrown militants.
There was no immediate comment from the administration on whether talks were actually taking place with the militants.
The United States, the source of billions of dollars of aid vital for Pakistan's military and feeble economy, is unlikely to look kindly on peace talks with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which it has labeled a terrorist group.
Past peace pacts with the TTP have failed to bring stability, and merely gave the umbrella group time and space to consolidate, launch fresh attacks and impose their austere version of Islam on segments of the population.
Mohammad said Pakistan had released 145 members of the group as a gesture of goodwill, and the militants had pledged a cease-fire.
He heads the TTP faction based in Bajaur, at the northeast end of the Pashtun belt along the border. He is known to be close to al Qaeda. His men focused on attacking into Afghanistan until U.S. drones, hunting for al Qaeda deputy Ayman al Zawahiri, began strikes in his area in early 2006.
Mohammad was believed to have been behind several attacks on Pakistani security forces. The army launched an offensive in Bajaur in August last year and largely cleared the region after months of at times heavy fighting.-Reuters