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Pakistani Political, Religious Figures Discuss Peace


Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan
Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan
ISLAMABAD -- Representatives of political and religious parties in Pakistan have gathered in Islamabad to discuss a joint strategy to deal with terrorism.

The talks are likely to be dominated by an offer of peace talks from the Pakistani Taliban.

At least 26 political and religious parties are attending the All Parties Conference.

In his address to the conference, secular Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan said the objective of the forum was to rally the nation against terrorism under the same agenda.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province’s Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain told RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that the participants are expected to draft recommendations that 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 the Taliban] in light of proposals from each party," Hussain said. "And we shall be presenting the unanimous agenda to the president and the military leadership [for onward peace moves with the Taliban]."

Along with the ANP, the Pakistan People's Party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, and Jamiat Ulema-e Islam were among the parties attending the conference.

However, two so-called anti-American groups -- the pro-Taliban Jamaat-e Islami and the Tehrik-e Insaaf of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan -- refused to participate in the event.

Jamaat-e Islami deputy head Sirajul Haq explained why his party is staying out the conference, saying, "Who is to turn it into practice even if the parties agree on a unanimous agenda? It is very clear that all such meetings are futile unless the [military] establishment of Pakistan agrees to play a key role in such moves."

Earlier this month, the banned Islamist group Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan proposed peace talks with the government.

Following the offer, the ANP, which has aggressively opposed Islamist insurgents, proposed convening the conference to discuss an agenda for the talks.

With reporting by

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