LONDON - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that he is still hopeful that talks with the Taliban will succeed, despite the militants ending a ceasefire.

Nawaz Sharif told BBC Urdu on Monday that talks offered the ‘best option’ of ending the country’s long conflict. The prime minister said he believed his talks strategy could ‘bring peace without any further bloodshed’. “If we can make this process somehow successful, I think it will be the best option.”

In an interview given on last day of his official visit to the UK, the prime minster said some elements were averse to the peace process. “These elements are not our friends and probably not of Taliban as well.” They want to spoil their peace efforts. These are the same elements that are behind bombing at Islamabad’s green market and at other places. “We are trying to trace them out.”

Responding to a question, Nawaz Sharif said the militants had to respect the constitution and lay down their arms. “This of course is the number one condition that has to be met. We are making progress on these issues. Let us see if the next round of meetings is successful and we can find a way to make headway in the talks we are holding with each other.”

The prime minister said it would take two or three more meetings for the sides to know “how sincere we are with each other and how the talks are progressing”. He added that security had improved while the talks have been under way but he did admit that there was a long way to achieve complete peace in the country as militant activities were still going on.

He said to resolve security issues, civilian government, army and intelligence agencies were moving ahead in the right direction. “Solving this problem through dialogue is our first priority. Talks are under way... (But) the progress on this regard is lesser than their expectations. However, if we achieve without shedding further blood then there could be nothing better than this.”

About a recent statement of Pakistan army chief, he said General Raheel Sharif has rightly said that country’s constitution is supreme and everyone should respect it. “The statement of army chief has done away with many doubts.”

Replying a question about the Hamid Mir attack episode, Nawaz said he believed it was wrong to speculate about something and draw any conclusion prematurely. “We are waiting for the report of investigative commission. It will make it clear who was behind it (attack on Mir).”

About Balochistan, he said the province was meted out injustices and nothing was done in the past to cure the wounds, but now there is an elected government and it is committed to peace and development in Balochistan. He said he has directed Chief Minister Dr Abdul Maalik to talk with the estranged elements and bring them back to the national mainstream.

About growing extremist trends in Pakistan, PM Nawaz said this problem is a product of periods of dictatorship which disregarded laws, and socio-economic imbalances. “Had democracy not been detracted, such problems would have no existence.”

APP adds: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif returned to Islamabad on Monday after completing his official visit to the United Kingdom.

The prime minister undertook the visit at the invitation of British Prime Minister David Cameron.

During the visit, he held important meetings with the British leadership to strengthen the strategic relations between the two countries.

The prime minister held an important meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron and discussed bilateral ties, regional situation and issues of mutual interest.



Staff Reporter from Peshawar adds: Member Taliban negotiating committee Prof Mohammad Ibrahim Khan said on Monday that Taliban should respond positively to the government’s peace efforts.

The TTP should give peace a chance and must not create hurdles in the way of permanent peace in the country, he said while talking to media persons. He appreciated the government’s efforts towards peace.

He said that they would try to convince the TTP political Shura to accept the government’s demands and announce a permanent ceasefire in the country.

To a question about venue and time of direct talks, he said a final decision regarding the venue and time for direct talks has not been made yet. He said efforts were underway to arrange the government committee’s meeting with the TTP Shura. He hoped that the meeting might take place soon. He said if the government asks the TTP for complete ceasefire during negotiation process then the TTP should support the government’s stance.