A coalition partner in the present Pakistan government, Awami National Party (ANP), has convened the ‘All Parties Conference’ (APC) on Thursday to deliberate on the offer by the Taliban for talks.
It is expected that the meeting will be attended by at least 26 parties. However Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamat-e-Islami (JI) have declined to attend the APC.
The APC, a brainchild of ANP, was being pursued following the assassination of senior ANP leader and provincial minister Bashir Ahmad Bilour in December 2012. Taliban had claimed the responsibility of the suicide attack in which he was killed.
Almost all the mainstream political parties will try to come up with a joint strategy to deal with the menace of terrorism. According to ANP, the conference will be held behind closed doors because of the sensitive nature of the issue.
According to ANP all the major parties, including the PPP, PML-N, PML-Q, JUI-F and the MQM have accepted the invitation to attend the conference, although organizers of the meeting have regretted that JI and PTI have declined to participate in the event. While JI refused to attend the conference, the PTI leadership even declined to meet the ANP delegation which wanted to extend the invitation.
Political pundits have termed the conference a significant development after TTP expressed willingness to hold conditional talks with the government. The TTP spokesman had expressed the willingness to talk if PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and JI Amir Syed Munawwar Hasan acted as guarantors for the talks. Nawaz has welcomed the peace talk offer but refused to be a guarantor.
The Government of Pakistan (GoP) has appreciated the willingness of TTP to talks but urged it to announce a 30-day ceasefire as a precursor to peace talks. It is on record that TTP stepped up attacks in recent months.
“First there should be ceasefire and peace talks can be held only after it,” said Interior Minister Rehman Malik.
“The nation has rejected the system of Taliban, this is voice of majority, come forward, announce a one-month ceasefire and then hold negotiations,” added Malik.
Some of the critics have rejected the TTP offer and accused the authorities of appeasement in trying to broker peace with TTP in the past, charging that such deals give the militants time to regroup before launching further attacks.
As opposed to this, some quarters had expressed fears that believe the recent attacks by TTP were creating fears that violence could mar general elections scheduled to take place by mid-May this year.