Pakistan to carry forward peace dialogue with the Taliban

Nov. 4, 2013 at 10:36 PM
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ISLAMABAD, Nov. 4 (UPI) -- The Pakistani Cabinet announced it will pursue peace talks with the Pakistan Taliban, whose leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who called Monday's special Cabinet meeting in the wake of Mehsud's death last week, told the meeting: "Pakistan has the right to take its decisions on its own according to its interests," the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

The Sharif government, which opposes the U.S. drone campaign, has been pursuing peace talks with the Pakistan Taliban, also called the Tehreek-i-Taliban. The Mehsud killing has been strongly criticized in the country, with some Pakistani leaders saying the attack had sabotaged the dialogue process and calling for a review of their country's relations with the United States.

Without naming the United States, Sharif told the Cabinet officials: "If there cannot be cooperation with the process we have initiated to end terrorism, it should at least not be damaged."

The Cabinet stressed that drone strikes are not acceptable as they are against the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Pakistan and that all out efforts should be made to end them, APP reported.

Earlier, Pakistan's News International newspaper quoted the TTP as saying it blamed the Pakistani government for the killing of Mehsud and that the group would not hold any peace talks. The group also threatened to avenge the killing of their leader.

"After consultation with all the factions, it has been unanimously decided that we will not hold any peace talks with the government. It's a puppet government of the U.S. and it deceived us in the name of peace talks," TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said.

However, Pakistani Interior Minister Khan told the National Assembly that although the TTP had ruled out any peace talks, the government intended to bring the process on track, China's Xinhua News Agency reported.

"We will try to revive the peace process from where it has been broken," the minister said.

Earlier, speaking at a Pakistani army field exercise, Sharif said his government has made its position clear the drone strikes are a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and are counter-productive to Pakistan's efforts to bring peace and stability in the region, his office reported on the official website.

Sharif said his administration "is firmly resolved to bringing the cycle of bloodshed and violence to an end, but it cannot be done overnight, nor can it be done by unleashing senseless force against our citizens, without first making every effort to bring the misguided and confused elements of society, back to the mainstream."

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