Pakistan in contact with some militant groups: Minister

AFP , Thursday 27 Feb 2014

Pakistan's interior minister said Thursday the government was in contact with some militant groups, as talks with the main Taliban faction remained stalled.

A day after pledging to press ahead with deadly air strikes on Taliban targets in the country's restive tribal regions, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said dialogue was still a priority as the government tries to end its seven-year insurgency that has killed thousands.

Talks between government and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) representatives that began earlier this month were suspended after the killing of 23 soldiers by the militants.

The military responded with a series of air strikes that have left more than 100 insurgents dead, but Khan said the government was still open to talks -- with the right people.

"We will talk to those groups who are not against Pakistan," he told journalists in Peshawar, the main city of the northwest.

"We are in contact with groups that have never attacked Pakistan's interests, we have dialogue for them."

He gave no details of which groups he meant.

His comments could revive fears that Pakistan is maintaining a policy of distinguishing between "good" militants who can be used to further strategic goals abroad, and "bad" militants who attack domestic targets.

Pakistan has come in for strong criticism from the United States and Afghanistan in recent years for sheltering and patronising militants such as the Haqqani network, who attack NATO and Afghan forces across the border.

On Wednesday Khan unveiled Pakistan's first-ever counter-terrorism policy, seven years since the TTP rose up and began its bloody campaign against the state.

The minister said every act of violence would in future be met with an attack on the militants' bases, which lie mainly in the North Waziristan tribal district on the Afghan border.

Commenting on the status of the dialogue between the government and Taliban representatives, Khan said Wednesday that while talks have been put on hold they could "resume anytime soon and both negotiations and targeted strikes will go hand in hand".

The umbrella Taliban group emerged in response to a raid on a radical mosque in Islamabad, though Islamist violence in the country began to surge in 2004 following the army's deployment in the tribal areas.


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