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Pakistan calls for peace talks with terror groups

Terror groups invited to renounce militancy in exchange for engagement.

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A relative mourns the death of suicide attack victim in Peshawar on March 11, 2012. (A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images)

Pakistan today called for new peace talks with extremist groups, including the Taliban, reported Agence-France Press (AFP)

Interior minister Rehman Malik told reporters some banned extremist organizations had contacted the authorities recently and "we would like to meet them in next few days" if they "closed down their militant wings," adding that the government "even offered the Taliban to give up militancy and join the federation," according to AFP

He also reportedly suggested talks could lead to a lift on restrictions for some the country's over 30 banned militant organizations, which include al-Qaeda, said AFP

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"I urge the Taliban to come and join us in pursuit of durable peace instead of violence for our future generations,” Malik said in comments to reporters in Lahore on Sunday, reported the Associated Press of Pakistan

Pakistan's northwest has seen rising extremist violence that has been largely blamed on the Taliban. On Sunday, at least 13 people died in a bomb attack on a funeral in the northwestern city of Peshawar. 

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Malik's push for engagement comes weeks after Pakistan's Prime Minister, Yousuf Raza Gilani, issued an unprecented call for similar efforts on the part of the Afghan government, according to The Washington Post.

The US has accused Pakistan's military authorities of maintaining close ties to extremists as well as harboring militants fleeing from neighborhing Afghanistan. 

Reducing militant activity in Afghanistan is seen as a critical component of a successful US withdrawal there, with international forces set to pull out by 2014.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/pakistan/120312/pakistan-calls-peace-talks-terror-groups