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Pak govt should hold talks with Taliban: Sharif

Pakistan government should hold negotiations with the Taliban as part of efforts to tackle terrorism as even the US has indicated its willingness to talk to militants, top opposition leader and former premier Nawaz Sharif has said.

world Updated: Jul 04, 2010 12:40 IST

Pakistan government should hold negotiations with the Taliban as part of efforts to tackle terrorism as even the US has indicated its willingness to talk to militants, top opposition leader and former premier Nawaz Sharif has said.

"If Washington says it is prepared to talk to the Taliban who are willing to listen, then a similar initiative should also come from Islamabad. We should not only see what decision they (the Western countries) will make about our fate. We should decide our own fate," said Sharif, the chief of man opposition PML-N.

"We have this problem at home. Why don't we take initiatives? Why should we wait for others' initiatives?" he told a news conference at his home here last evening.

Asked about failed peace attempts in the past, Sharif, a two-time former premier, said: "Peace is the priority and for that, ways can be found."

His comments came two days after a pair of suicide bombers struck the Data Darbar sufi shrine here, killing 45 people and injuring over 200 others. There is considerable pressure on the PML-N-led government in Punjab to crack down on militants based in the southern part of the province.

The PML-N is perceived as being soft on pro-Taliban militants and provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah openly campaigned with leaders of the banned Sipah-e-Sahaba terror group during by-polls in Punjab earlier this year.

However, Sharif dispelled the impression that the PML-N is soft on or has links with militants, saying there would not have been terrorist attacks in Lahore and other parts of Punjab if this were true.

He said there was no safe haven for the Taliban in southern Punjab. "It is our duty to eliminate terrorism wherever it is breeding. But we have no evidence of terrorists being present in southern Punjab. We do not see them there," he said.

The PML-N chief also said he was opposed to the use of the term "Punjabi Taliban" to refer to militants operating in the province. "Terrorists are just terrorists and have no boundaries and territories," he said.