Government offers peace talks to rebels in Pakistan

April 9th, 2008 - 8:07 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
Islamabad, April 9 (DPA) The new chief minister of Pakistan’s restive south western Baluchistan province said Wednesday his government would hold peace talks with the armed nationalist rebels, who have waged a war against security forces for the last three years. The Baluch rebels have been demanding a greater share of the province’s oil and gas wealth and more autonomy for the region for many years.

They started an armed campaign in 2005 when the government of President Pervez Musharraf launched a military operation to quell the rebellion. The insurgency has claimed hundreds of lives and several power and communication installations destroyed or damaged.

The government will hold talks with “our brethren who have been alienated by the past government’s policies,” newly elected Chief Minister Aslam Raisani told the local legislative assembly in provincial capital Quetta.

“We should start the process of reconciliation so we may bring peace and prosperity to this federal unit, especially, and in large to the country,” he added.

He said he did not consider the insurgents to be terrorists because they were only fighting for their rights.

Raisani is from the Pakistan Peoples Party, of slain leader Benazir Bhutto, which defeated Musharraf’s political backers in Feb 18 elections for the national parliament and four provincial assemblies.

The party has also advocated a comprehensive strategy, including talks as well as military action in dealing with pro-Taliban militants in North West Frontier Province and the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

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