LAHORE, Pakistan, Feb. 8 (UPI) -- Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for Islamabad to have open, direct talks with the Taliban.
Sharif heads Pakistan's Pakistan Muslim League (N), a center-right, fiscal conservative political party that is Pakistan's second largest political party. It holds nearly 20 percent of the country's parliamentary votes.
"There is a need to take the Taliban's offer seriously because the people of Pakistan want peace," Sharif said. "I ask the government to initiate result-oriented peace talks with the Taliban without any delay."
Sharif's remarks came after the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan on Sunday said it would enter discussions with the government if three top politicians, including Sharif, acted as guarantors for the negotiations. They also designated Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman as possible guarantors.
In a video released this month, the TTP set conditions for negotiations with the government. In addition to requests for the three guarantors, the group set a condition of the release of TTP militants being held by the Pakistani government.
"It will be difficult for anyone to become a guarantor because of the government's credibility record," Sharif said. "However, we fully support talks between the Taliban and the government for peace in Pakistan."
He added that, for the sake of the Pakistani people, the TTP and the government should begin talks with an "open heart for the peaceful resolution of problems," The Frontier Post reported.
Sharif released a statement that conflict in the country wasn't the solution and that Pakistan was a paying a heavy price attempting to use violence to solve its problems. He said the PML-N has always supported the resolution of issues through dialog and consequently supported talks with the TTP despite that the government of President Asif Ali Zadari's record wasn't such that it could give any guarantees.
TTP spokesman Ehsnaullah Ehsan said in a video interview: "We have responded positively to the government peace talks offer but it seems to be non-serious. However, despite the government's non-seriousness, we feel there should be a chance given for restoration of peace through talks.
"We can't trust the military, in the past when peace deals were made, the politicians had been sabotaged by the army. So this time the government must act if it is serious, but we need guarantees from the military as indirectly they are the rulers.
"My organization and I demand that if the government wants the peace talks to make headway, it has to give us three guarantors ... It will restore the TTP's confidence if these three are nominated as guarantors and we will feel the government is sincere in negotiations."
About the possible inclusion of Abdul Qadeer Khan, father of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, in peace talks, Ehsanullah said: "Dr. Abdul Qadeer is Pakistan's asset and he has done miracles for the Ummah. I if he is nominated for the process his name would be also be significant, but I have not yet heard if he has been nominated by the government."
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