Pak Taliban negotiators meet Shura ahead of peace talks

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Islamabad, Mar 13: Members from the negotiating team representing the Pakistani Taliban today flew to North Waziristan in a state-provided helicopter to hold talks with the banned militant group's 'Shura' council, ahead of crucial peace parleys with the government.

The members who left for North Waziristan were Maulana Yousuf Shah, Jamaat-i-Islami's Ibrahim Khan and Maulana Abdul Hai. Yesterday, the government set up a new four-member committee of negotiators.

Today's meeting is aimed at deciding a time and venue for the Taliban Shura's talks with the new government committee which would leave for North Waziristan soon after the details become clear.

Shah, coordinator of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan's negotiating team, said the second round of talks is a 'decision-making' one. Talking to the media, he called upon the masses to pray for the success of the talks, saying that they would bring good news to the nation.

He said the TTP committee was leaving for North Waziristan to fix the agenda and the place for meeting with government team and the Taliban shura.

"We will meet with the government committee after meeting with the Taliban leadership," Shah said.

The Pakistan government had yesterday formed a new four-member committee to hold direct talks with the TTP in a bid to restore peace in the country that has been ravaged by violence for over a decade.

The committee will be headed by Habibullah Khattak, Secretary Ports and Shipping. Rustam Shah Mohmand has retained his place in the committee while other members included Additional Secretary FATA Arbab Arif and the Prime Minister's Additional Secretary Fawad Hassan Fawad.

"All are officers of Pakistan Administrative Service," a source said. Mohmand, who was also in the earlier committee that held the first round of talks with the TTP, is a former bureaucrat who has also served as Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan.

The formation of the new committee came as the top leadership of all three armed forces of Pakistan today reaffirmed their resolve to fight terrorism under a comprehensive strategy within the policy parameters set by the political leadership.

The new negotiating team was officially formed after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan in Islamabad yesterday.

Speaking to the media after the meeting, Khan said that the government's peace dialogue initiative has separated the Taliban factions willing to negotiate from the factions that continue to commit acts of terrorism.

"This division is a great success," he said, adding that the militant factions that want to sabotage talks will be dealt with militarily.

PTI

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