REPORTING FROM ISLAMABAD AND PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN -- Leaders of Pakistan’s Taliban movement have begun preliminary talks with government intermediaries aimed at reaching a peace agreement in the tribal region of South Waziristan, the site of a large-scale military operation against the homegrown insurgency in 2009.
Sources close to the Pakistani Taliban confirmed that talks were underway, though they stressed that the discussions were at an early stage. The government’s intermediaries include tribal elders in South Waziristan, the militant group’s stronghold.
Previous peace agreements between the government and Taliban militants in the country’s volatile tribal areas along the Afghan border have ended in failure. Militants seized upon the cease-fires as an opportunity to regroup and amass new recruits.
However, the country’s top political leaders met recently and hammered out a resolution calling for a renewed attempt at negotiating with militants, arguing that military operations in the tribal areas have so far failed to rein in insurgents.
In recent years, more than 140,000 Pakistani troops deployed in the tribal areas have retaken areas once controlled by the Pakistani Taliban. However, the militant group still maintains a presence in pockets throughout the tribal belt, and continues to carry out attacks on military and civilian targets.
-- Alex Rodriguez reported from Islamabad and Zulfiqar Ali from Peshawar.
Photo: A Pakistan army officer hands a box of relief goods to a displaced tribesman who returned to his village last month in South Waziristan, the site of frequent clashes between government troops and Pakistani Taliban militants in recent years. Credit: Ihsan Battani / Associated Press