Pakistan PM scotches speculation of Taliban offensive

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday scotched speculation his government would launch an offensive against the Taliban following a wave of bloody attacks, saying he wanted to "give the peaceful solution another chance".

Sharif's government has come under fire for failing to come up with a strategy to respond to a surge in militant violence, which has seen more than 114 people killed in attacks since the start of the year, according to an AFP tally.

Sharif was elected to office last year vowing to bring an end to a homegrown Taliban insurgency that has raged since 2007, by engaging militants in meaningful dialogue.

But preliminary efforts to reach out to the Taliban ended after a US drone strike killed their then-leader Hakimullah Mehsud in November.

The Taliban have since said they will only talk if the Pakistan army withdraws from the country's restive tribal areas that border Afghanistan, and puts an end to US drone strikes.

In a highly-anticipated address to Pakistan's parliament Wednesday, Sharif paid an emotional tribute to the victims of terrorism, saying: "Common citizens are being targeted and our innocent children are dying. Society is surrounded by fear."

He also slammed the Taliban for rejecting the government's first offer of talks and distorting the teachings of Islam, adding: "Our very existence is endangered. We cannot make the nation and the country hostage to militants."

He continued: "I know that today if state wants to eliminate terrorists by force, the entire nation will stand by it, however, when the offer of talks has come to fore from the other side, we ... want to give the peaceful solution another chance."

To aid in the renewed dialogue efforts Sharif said he would form a four-man committee that includes leading journalist Rahimullah Yousufzai.

Reacting to the speech, opposition scion Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, the 25-year-old son of slain premier Benazir Bhutto,accused Sharif of appeasing terror.

"Support NS (Nawaz Sharif). I want him to be our Churchill. Unfortunately he is becoming our Neville Chamberlain pursuing policy of appeasement," he tweeted.