ISLAMABAD — A conference of Pakistan’s political and military leadership on Monday agreed to clear the way for peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, calling it the best strategy to end a decade of militant-driven bloodshed.
The closed-door meeting was attended by representatives of all the major political parties, the army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, and the head of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, the country’s main spy agency, Lt. Gen. Zaheer ul-Islam.
In a statement afterward, the participants announced that they had given Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government permission to start a peace dialogue by identifying Taliban representatives who might participate in talks. Sharif, who has previously faced accusations of pandering to militants, made dialogue with the Taliban a cornerstone of his campaign in the May general election.
“It is a good day for Pakistan,” said Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo, a senator from western Baluchistan province, during a television talk show hours later. “Today, the political parties have given the government a mandate for peace.”
But while the six-hour conference Monday cemented the political consensus for talks, it offered little detail on how such talks might work in practice — or, indeed, what issues the government might be willing to negotiate.
The process also threatens to further cloud Pakistan’s complicated relationship with Islamist militants: even as the military has fought the Pakistani Taliban, it has long been accused of fostering other terrorist groups at work against Indian, Afghan, and American interests, among others.