TTP offshoot praises stay on executions as main militant group continues silences on talks offer.
A Pakistani militant group has welcomed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s call for dialogue with extremists to end bloodshed that has left thousands dead.
Sharif made the offer to extremists on Monday in his first televised address to the nation since taking office after winning elections in May—a sweeping, hour-long speech that focused on Pakistan’s myriad problems.
“Wisdom demands that we follow a path where we minimize the loss of innocent lives,” said Sharif.
He campaigned for an historic third term as premier by offering peace talks to the Pakistani Taliban, the leaders of a devastating domestic insurgency that has links to Al Qaeda.
“We welcome the offer of talks by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif,” Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab chief Asmatullah Muaweya said in a statement distributed in Wana, the main town of the South Waziristan tribal area bordering Afghanistan.
Muaweya’s faction is linked to the main TTP umbrella militant group based in the northwestern tribal belt along the Afghan border, which has yet to respond to the call for talks by Sharif.
“The prime minister has shown maturity with his talks offer and he has also strengthened the desire for peace by staying executions,” Muaweya said.
Pakistan on Sunday ordered a temporary stay of executions following objections from the president and rights groups, days before they were due to resume after a five-year moratorium.
Pakistan has more than 7,000 prisoners on death row, one of the largest populations of prisoners facing execution in the world.
Pakistani Taliban militants, who have been waging a domestic insurgency since 2007, have said they will consider the executions of any of its prisoners a declaration of war.