Pakistan, Taliban agree to hold indirect talks

The Pakistani government and the banned Islamist Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have agreed to hold indirect negotiations through mediators aimed at bringing an end to the nearly decade-old insurgency in Pakistan's tribal areas, according to sources close to both sides.

A list with the names of possible interlocutors has been approved by Interior Minister Chaudri Nisar Ali Khan and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan leader Hakimullah Mehsud, with all five mediators reportedly held in high regard by the government, tribal leaders and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan party, the sources told Kyodo News on Thursday.

The government has decided to hold only indirect or proxy talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan because it was declared a terrorist organization in August 2008, they said.

A time and a venue have yet to be decided, but observers say the agreement on holding talks is a big step toward peace.

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan consists of over a dozen militant organizations engaged in an undeclared war with the Pakistani government over its Afghan policy.

The United States and Afghanistan maintain that the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban taking shelter in Pakistan's tribal areas have been involved in cross-border terrorism in Afghanistan and they have asked the Pakistani government to launch a military operation against them.

Pakistan has been providing logistical support and related facilities to NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan under an agreement reached after the United States attacked Afghanistan as part of its war on terror.