Pak Govt negotiating with Taliban in North Waziristan before offensive in South Waziristan

      Before launching a full-scale military operation in South Waziristan, the Pakistan Government has initiated back-channel negotiations with Taliban commanders in North Waziristan in order to isolate insurgents of the Baitullah group. As part of the initiative, a jirga comprising more than 20 tribal elders arrived in Peshawar for talks with civilian and military leadership, The Dawn reports. The sources added that back-channel contacts between the government and hardline Taliban commanders in the region, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Sadiq Noor, had resulted in a unilateral ceasefire. "The talks have been in progress for many weeks. For the same reason the ceasefire announced by Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Sadiq Noor group has been extended for an indefinite period after the expiry of an earlier deadline of Oct 3," an influential elder from North Waziristan said. These two Taliban leaders are members of the Shura-i-Ittehad-i-Mujahideen, an alliance of Taliban groups, which also included the former TTP Chief Baitullah Mehsud. The last agreement between the Taliban of North Waziristan and the government was inked on Feb 17, 2007. However, due to frequent US drone attacks the Taliban pulled out of the agreement on June 29 and resumed attacks on security forces. According to sources, the Gul Bahadur group is demanding an end to drone attacks and withdrawal of troops from the area. "It is very premature to say about the success of negotiations at this stage. For the time being both parties are showing flexibility," a source said.

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