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'Pak govt should hold talks with Taliban'

Pakistan's main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said that the government should hold talks with the Taliban as part of its efforts to tackle the menace of terrorism as even the US has indicated its willingness to talk to militants.

world Updated: Jul 04, 2010 02:41 IST

Pakistan's main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif on Saturday said that the government should hold talks with the Taliban as part of its efforts to tackle the menace of terrorism as even the US has indicated its willingness to talk to militants.

"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 the PML-N party and a two-time former premier.

"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 in this eastern Pakistani city.

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

Sharif's comments came two days after a pair of suicide bombers struck the Data Darbar sufi shrine in Lahore, 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.

Sharif 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.

He 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.

The terrorism plaguing Pakistan is a result of policies made by federal governments in the past and current Pakistan People's Party-led coalition at the centre has not been able to find remedies, he contended.

The federal government could have turned to parliament and politicians for initiatives to be launched to tackle terrorism instead of waiting for directives from Washington, London and other Western capitals, he said.