Maulana Sami-ul-Haq approached by PTI’s pick for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa chief minister.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is seeking the help of elderly pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Sami-ul-Haq to initiate peace talks with the militants, party officials said on Tuesday.
The PTI has already approached Haq, nicknamed the “Father of the Taliban,” after emerging from the May 11 elections as the largest party in the troubled province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The region, on the frontline of a nearly seven-year domestic Taliban insurgency, suffers near-daily bomb and shooting attacks claimed by militants.
Former cricket star Khan has called for an end to military operations and peace talks with the Taliban, making his party’s victory in the northwest a significant development. He has vowed to put together a provincial coalition government in the province and turn it into a “role model” for the rest of the country.
“We will talk to all stakeholders for establishment of peace in our province, meeting with Maulana Sami-ul-Haq was a part of that,” said Shaukat Yousafzai, a party leader who won a seat for the party in the provincial assembly.
Haq heads his own faction of the religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party and runs a madrassah that has educated several Taliban leaders in the past.
Yousafzai said a PTI delegation led by Pervez Khattak, the incoming provincial chief minister, met Haq late Monday. Hamid-ul-Haq, the cleric’s son and a former M.P., confirmed that PTI leaders came to seek support. “They asked Sami-ul-Haq to play his role in establishment of peace in the province,” Hamid-ul-Haq said. “Sami-ul-Haq told the delegation that he will play his role in establishment of peace and initiation of peace talks.”
Pakistan’s incoming prime minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday said he was open to talks with the Taliban, saying bringing peace was one of his top priorities.
Pakistan’s umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban movement signaled in February its willingness to enter peace talks with the government if a member of the opposition would agree to serve as guarantor. At the same time, it stepped up attacks against the ruling coalition composed of the Pakistan Peoples Party and its main allies, drastically curtailing their ability to campaign during the election.
Previous Pakistani governments, as well as the military, have forged ad hoc peace deals with insurgent factions in various parts of the northwestern tribal belt, which have often broken down quickly. The Taliban, who denounce democracy as un-Islamic, killed more than 150 people during the election campaign, including 24 on polling day itself.
Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said the insurgents would “wait until political parties form their government,” adding that anyone who “comes into conflict with Islam” would be targeted.
Suicide, bomb and gun attacks blamed on Taliban and Al Qaeda-affiliates have killed nearly 6,000 people since July 2007, according to an AFP tally.