By RFE RL
(RFE/RL) — Representatives of political and religious parties in Pakistan have agreed on a joint strategy for combating terrorism at a gathering in Islamabad.
On February 14, Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan read out the unanimous declaration adopted at the meeting, which said the participants agreed that “attaining peace through dialogue should be the first priority.”
However, he added that the 26 political and religious parties attending the conference agreed that the challenges posed by terrorism should be addressed in accordance with “the constitution, law, security, and sovereignty of the country.”
“The future of survival and prosperity of this country will depend on resolving this issue [of terrorism] properly,” Khan said. “The continuation of the democratic process inside the country can also help in resolving this issue.”
‘Developing A National Consciousness’
Earlier on February 14, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province’s Information Minister and ANP leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal that the recommendations of the conference will be forwarded to President Asif Ali Zardari and Army Chief of Staff Ashfaq Pervez Kayani.
“[In this conference] we will be preparing an agenda for peace talks [with Taliban] in light of proposals from each party,” he said. “And we shall be presenting the unanimous agenda to the president and the military leadership [for onward peace moves with the Taliban].”
The ANP, a secular Pashtun party, has aggressively opposed the Taliban and its extremist allies during its five-year rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. In retribution, the Taliban have killed hundreds of party members since 2007.
The party called for the development of a national consensus on counterterrorism efforts after Bilour Ahmad Bilour, a senior minister in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, was killed by a Taliban suicide bomber along with eight others on December 22 in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
Days before the conference, the banned Islamist group Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan offered conditional peace talks with the government. Most political parties welcomed the offer but there was no agreement on how to move forward with the negotiations.