Pak Taliban negotiators meet militants leaders on peace talks

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Islamabad, Feb 9: Two negotiators representing the Pakistani Taliban in the peace talks with the government have met the militant leadership in the lawless North Waziristan Agency and briefed them about the first round of talks.

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mohammad Ibrahim and Jamiat Ulema Islam-Samiul Haq group spokesperson Maulana Yousaf Shah flew to North Waziristan yesterday in a government helicopter. Local media reports had contradictory information about what transpired during the meeting.

While some said the Taliban has not put forward any demands, TV channels reported that they sought the release of jailed militants and talks being held under the 'Sharia'.

There were no independent confirmation about the reports. The two negotiators first met with the political agent in North Waziristan and then left for an undisclosed location to meet with the Taliban leaders.

It is expected that the two will return here later today after which the picture woule be clear on Taliban's demands. Ibrahim is a member of the TTP-appointed committee for peace talks and Shah is the coordinator of the committee. They reached Miranshah in a helicopter provided by the Interior Ministry and met with the 9-member committee set up by Taliban to oversee the peace talks.

Negotiators from both sides formally met on Thursday for a first round of peace talks aimed at ending the nearly decade-long insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives. On Thursday, the two sides laid down a roadmap in the form of demands from both sides future deliberation, with the government insisting that any negotiations be held within the framework of the constitution of Pakistan.

However, the peace process was dealt a blow on Friday when a member of the three-man TTP committee – chief cleric of Islamabad's Lal Masjid Maulana Abdul Aziz – rejected the condition of holding talks under the constitution.

It was widely believed that negotiators from the Taliban side - Samiul Haq, a radical cleric known as the 'father of the Taliban', Jamaat-e-Islami leader Ibrahim Khan and Abdul Aziz had agreed to this condition. There is intense scepticism about the peace initiative achieving a lasting solution to the insurgency led by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan that has claimed thousands of lives.

Aziz said he would remain part of the Taliban-nominated three-member team but would not come to the negotiating table. Observers said his move could undermine the talks as the government committee has voiced doubts about the authority of the Taliban's representatives.

The state negotiators skipped an initial meeting on Tuesday, citing confusion about the Taliban's team after two members pulled out.

PTI

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