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Pakistan's All Parties Conference hints at peace talks with all militant groups

Islamabad, Fri, 30 Sep 2011 ANI

Islamabad, Sept 30(ANI): Pakistan's top political and military leadership has decided to hold peace talks with all militant groups, apparently including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), according to a news report.


The decision to initiate a dialogue process with 'all stakeholders' was approved at an All Parties Conference (APC) chaired by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday, The Express Tribune reports.


The Pakistan Government convened the nine-hour-long marathon meeting to demonstrate national unity in the face of what were perceived as threats by the United States.


"Pakistan must initiate dialogue with a view to negotiate peace with our own people in the tribal areas and a proper mechanism for this be put in place," said a 13-point joint declaration issued after the meeting.


While the statement did not clarify with whom Pakistan must initiate dialogue, some of the participants of the meeting told the newspaper that the phrase "own people" was a reference to militant groups, including the TTP.


"Personally, I am against talking to terrorists, but had to endorse it for the sake of national unity," said Sahibzada Fazl Karim, the head of the Sunni Ittehad Council- an umbrella organisation for Pakistan's Barelvi groups, which are opposed to the Taliban, who are from the rival Deobandi sect.


According to the report, a Pakhtun nationalist leader said that the proposed dialogue would not be spearheaded either by the government or the military alone, but that a 'national institutionalised mechanism' might be developed for that.


He said that the new mechanism might be on the pattern of the High Peace Council, which was set up by Afghan President Hamid Karzai last year in order to reach out to insurgents in his country for reconciliation talks.


"The All Party Conference recognised that there has to be a new direction and policy with a focus on peace and reconciliation. 'Give peace a chance' must be the guiding central principle henceforth," read one of the 13 points in the statement, which was backed by the leaders of close to 60 political parties, the government and the military's top brass. (ANI)


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