Call for talks with Pakistan Taleban after bombings

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POLITICIANS called for peace talks with the Pakistani Taleban yesterday, after the group killed 18 people in a pair of bombings in the country’s north-west.

The call for peace negotiations followed a meeting of many of the country’s main political parties in the capital, Islamabad, to discuss the issue. Momentum for peace talks has grown in recent weeks as both the Taleban and the government have said they are interested. “We agreed that bringing peace through talks should be the first priority,” Asfandyar Wali Khan, head of the Awami National Party (ANP), said after the meeting.

The ANP, which is the strongest party in the north-west, has been repeatedly attacked by the Taleban, and has taken the lead in calling for talks with the group. The party convened yesterday’s meeting, which was also attended by the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N.

Many sceptics doubt the militants truly want peace and point to past agreements with the Taleban that fell apart.

Others say there is no alternative to negotiations since numerous military operations targeting the Taleban’s sanctuaries in the north-west have failed to break the group’s back.

In yesterday’s attacks, 11 police were killed when a police post in Hangu district was targeted, authorities said.

Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb hit a vehicle carrying members of an anti-Taleban militia in Stanzai village in the Orakzai tribal region, killing seven.

Five suicide bombers also attacked a police station in the city of Bannu, wounding one police officer.

Pakistani Taleban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan claimed responsibility for the three attacks.