Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declared (once again) that the government is ready to hold peace talks with the Taliban, apparently putting an end to weeks of speculation about a military operation against militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. The NYT reports:
Though Mr. Sharif and his party have previously said they favored peace talks, his announcement took many by surprise. Some senior government officials had indicated in recent days that the government was preparing for a military offensive and had been discussing an operational plan with senior military leaders.After two recent attacks on security forces, one in Bannu and one in Rawalpindi, where the Pakistani military has its headquarters, air force jets and army gunship helicopters mounted a rare retaliatory strike, pounding militant hide-outs in North Waziristan.”
The hour seems at last to have come for the most vocal proponent of peace talks, cricketer-turned-politican Imran Khan (and his party, the PTI). One of the members of the four-man committee Sharif set up to conduct the peace talks is a senior PTI leader, giving Khan a direct representative in the process.Few have high hopes that the peace talks will succeed, including members of the committee itself. The day Sharif announced the policy, the Taliban claimed responsibility for killing four paramilitary troops near their headquarters in the city of Karachi. For his own political well-being, Imran Khan is surely hoping to prove the doubters wrong.