Pakistan Taliban deny secret peace talks with government

AFP , Saturday 31 Aug 2013

The Pakistani Taliban says statements attributed to Pakistan's information minister on peace talks between the group and the government are 'complete propaganda'

A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban on Saturday denied media reports that the government was holding peace talks with the insurgent group.

Pakistani private media and most Urdu and English language dailies on Saturday ran headlines reporting the start of peace talks with the Taliban while some said there had been initial contacts with the militants.

Shahidullah Shahid, the main spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), told AFP that no contacts had been made between the group and any government official.

"I categorically deny the holding of peace talks on any level between the Taliban and Pakistani government," Shahid told AFP from an undisclosed location.

"No contacts have even been made between us, nor have we received any offer to initiate peace talks," Shahid added.

Pakistan's respected English language daily DAWN quoted Information Minister Pervez Rashid as saying the government was in secret talks with the TTP.

"Unofficial talks between the government side and Taliban are in progress," Rashid told the paper.

Rashid said the government's main objective was to restore peace and it would do everything possible to achieve that.

"We have to rid the country of the menace of terrorism for which all options would be utilised," Rashid was quoted as saying.

BBC Urdu, quoting an unnamed senior government official and a Taliban commander, also reported the beginning of peace talks.

"It is complete propaganda. The government must make it public if it has any proof of any such talks," Shahid said.

The reports of peace talks emerged almost two weeks after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made an offer to extremists in his first televised address to the nation since taking office after winning elections in May.

Previous peace deals have rapidly unravelled and were criticised by the United States and at home for allowing militants space to regroup before launching new waves of attacks.

The Taliban last Saturday removed a key commander for welcoming Sharif's call for dialogue.

Ismatullah Muaweea, the head of the TTP in Punjab province, had said the prime minister had shown maturity.

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