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Sami-ul Haq quits Taliban peace talks

A cleric with close ties to the Taliban said Wednes-day he would no longer act as a government-backed peace broker with the Taliban after airstrikes killed 40 people in North Waziristan. Sami Ul Haq, who heads Dar-ul-Uloom Haqqania seminary and is often referred to as the "Father of the Taliban", was given the task of initiating peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban in December by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Nawaz Sharif's government announced its talks policy in September and began making preliminary contact with the Taliban's leadership, but the initiative ended after a US drone strike killed then-Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in November. "The government does not seems serious and concerned. I had requested them to avoid a military operation and use of force but yesterday it started bombing in North Waziristan and tribal areas," Haq, who is also chief of his own faction of the religious Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-S) party, said in a statement sent to AFP. But Haq, whose seminary has awarded Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar an honorary doctorate, said more fighting was not the answer.

"Both sides (Taliban and government) are in a state of war. Innocent citizens and soldiers are dying," he said in the statement. "A military operation is not the answer: we should instead put all our passion into the process of talks. "In such a situation I want to separate myself from this bloody tragedy," he added.

Haq said Nawaz sought his help in initiating peace talks and he received positive signals after contacting the Taliban leadership, but "the lack of seriousness on behalf of the government" forced him to quit the process. Haq also sent AFP a copy of a letter he wrote to Nawaz Sharif, complaining that multiple calls and efforts to reach the premier had gone unanswered.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2014


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