Thank you for a peaceful Ashura, controversial minister tells the Pakistan Taleban

PAKISTAN’S interior minister has thanked the Taleban for not staging attacks in his country during this year’s Ashura.

His comments come despite the fact Pakistani Taleban and other Sunni extremist groups have frequently bombed Shia processions during Ashura.

The government has declared war on the Taleban, but in recent weeks there have been unconfirmed reports of peace talks with at least some factions.

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Ashura observances have passed peacefully in Pakistan this year. Speaking yesterday to reporters in the capital, Islamabad, interior minister Rehman Malik said he had appealed to the Taleban to “respect” the Shia observances, adding: “I want to thank them for doing that.”

It was unclear whether the often controversial and ill-informed Mr Malik was referring to a formal appeal to the Taleban. He has previously denied reports of peace talks with the group. The official line is that it will talk to any militant group if it renounces violence and lays down its arms.

The Pakistani Taleban and allied groups have claimed responsibility for hundreds of suicide bombings over the past five years that have killed thousands.

They regard Shia as infidels, and believe killing them is a religious obligation.