Pakistan's major parties to discuss TTP's offer

Almost all mainstream political parties and representatives of bar associations will meet in Islamabad today at a multi-party conference organised by the Awami National Party (ANP) to devise a joint strategy to deal with the menace of terrorism in Pakistan.

The deliberations are likely to be dominated by the offer of talks made recently by the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the umbrella organisation of various Islamist militant groups based in the northwestern Federally Administered Tribal Areas along the Afghan border in Pakistan.

According to the ANP, the conference will be held in camera because of the sensitive nature of the issue.

"Of course, the peace talks offer made by the Taliban will be discussed at the conference," said ANP's parliamentary leader in the Senate, Haji Mohammad Adeel.

Adeel said the main objective of the conference was to devise a national policy that could bring about peace in the country. He said the ANP would go into the conference with an open mind and expected the country's political leadership to come up with some consensus decisions and strategy to deal with the terrorism that has severely affected national economy and caused huge losses to human lives.

He said the ANP did not want to impose its policies or viewpoints on others, but it was ready for dialogue and also for a military operation, if needed, for the sake of peace.

Adeel said all major parties had accepted the invitation to attend the conference. He regretted that the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) had declined to participate in the event for some reasons.

According to him, while the JI refused to attend the conference, the PTI leadership even declined to meet the ANP delegation, which wanted a meeting to extend the invitation.

He said they had requested the JI to review its decision.

The ANP leader said he could not confirm the names of the participants, but expected Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Raja Zafarul Haq, Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, former prime minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Mehmood Khan Achakzai of the Pakhtunkhawa Milli Awami Party, Maulana Abdul Ghafoor Haideri and Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao to attend the event.

The conference is considered significant because it is being held only two weeks after TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had expressed willingness to hold conditional talks with the government.

The TTP spokesman had declared that if Pakistan Muslim Leage (N) President Nawaz Sharif, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and JI Amir Syed Munawwar Hasan acted as guarantors for the talks, they would be willing to hold negotiations in the best interest of the country.

Nawaz Sharif, it may be mentioned, has urged the government to accept the Taliban offer and take result-oriented steps.

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