by Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, Feb. 5 (Xinhua) -- Although the Pakistani Taliban have offered to talk to the government, it has imposed a number of conditions such as their unwillingness to surrender their arms and to stop their armed attacks, conditions that may not sit well with the current government in Islamabad.
A Taliban video message sent to the media on Sunday also asked the security forces to give guarantee of the country's three top political and religious leaders for the implementation of any proposed agreement in the talks, claiming that previous peace accords had been violated.
In the video message, Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan also called for the release of Taliban detainees, including two former spokesmen, Maulvi Said Omar and Muslim Khan, both arrested in 2009. Ehsan said Maulvi Omar and Muslim Khan would lead the Taliban delegation in the proposed talks.
At the same time, the Taliban spokesman declared that they would continue attacks on members of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, the ethnic Pashtoon Awami National Party, which rules the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Mutahida Qaumi Movement, a powerful group of the Urdu-speaking people in Karachi and parts of southern Sindh province.
The offer of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) for talks but with conditions has raised some hopes for peace in Pakistan where officials say terror attacks and military operations against the militants have already cost some 40,000 people, including about 3, 500 security personnel over the past 11 years.
But the conditions asked by the Taliban run counter to the government stance that any talks with the militant group should be preceded by the surrender of their arms and a pledge to stop their armed attacks both against military and civilian targets.
Analysts here said that for the peace process to proceed, both sides should set no pre-conditions.
Rahimullah Yousafzai, a respected analyst, said that talks cannot be conducted when there are conditions imposed by both sides. "Both sides should go the peace negotiating table with open minds," he said.
Yousafzai, who regularly writes about the Taliban, also said that chances of holding peace talks are nil since there has been no formal contact yet between the government and the Taliban.
However, Yousafzai is hopeful that something positive would come out from the Taliban's demand that they want three religious and political leaders to be the guarantors in the implementation of any peace agreement that would be finalized.
The TTP spokesman said that they want to talk to the security forces if they provide guarantee of three senior political leaders. They listed former Prime Minister and chief of the Pakistan Muslim League, Nawaz Sharif, chief of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam, Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman and head of Jamaat-i-Islami, Syed Munawar Hasan as guarantors for the talks.
Pakistanis have suffered a lot due to the terror attacks and would want to see an end to terrorism to save lives and move the country's economy forward.
Some political leaders have urged the government to explore ways to respond to the Taliban's dialogue offer but with the conditions made by the militant group, it is doubtful whether there can really be a possibility of the opening of the peace process.