Talks between Pakistan’s government and the Taliban have yielded a joint ceasefire call. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hopes to reach peace with the Taliban, which regularly attacks civilians and Pakistani security forces.
On Thursday, negotiators from the two sides met in the Pakistani capital to discuss a road map aimed at ending more than a decade of violence in the country. In a joint statement issued after over three hours of talks, the sides urged both Pakistan's army and the Taliban to avoid actions that could harm the efforts.
"It is important for the success of the talks that every action which is detrimental to peace and security should be stopped," the statement read.
The leadership of both the nation and the Taliban must approve any major decisions by the representatives attending the talks in Islamabad. The two sides have yet to announce a date for the next round.
'Nation is waiting'
An attempt at direct talks with the Taliban in the autumn failed after a US drone attack killed organization chief Hakimullah Mehsud. To replace him, the group elected the hard-line Mullah Fazlullah, suspected of being behind the assassination attempt against schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.
The Taliban announced at the time that it would not hold any talks until drone strikes ended, and then proceeded to carry out several deadly attacks, including one at an army base in Bannu last month that killed at least 20 soldiers. It appears that the group is now ready to negotiate.
"The process of talks should not be a long one as the nation is waiting for good news," Maulana Samiul Haq, the head of the Taliban delegation who is occasionally referred to as the organization's father, said Thursday. "Therefore, this process should be completed in a short period."
Haq also said he had asked the government negotiators to arrange a meeting between the Taliban team and the prime minister, army chief and head of the intelligence agency so that his group could discuss the issues with them directly. In return, the government team asked for a direct meeting with the Taliban leadership, Haq said, adding that he would pass the request on.
"Today, we started the journey for peace, and both sides have agreed to complete it as soon as possible," Irfan Sadiqui, the head of the government team, said Thursday.
The latest talks have received a boost from a report in the Washington Post newspaper that suggests that the United States has now agreed to reduce its drone attacks at the request of Pakistani leaders.
mkg/dr (Reuters, AFP, dpa, AP)