Pakistani prime minister extends talks offer to militants
(dpa) - Pakistan's newly elected Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani on Saturday called upon the pro-Taliban militants in country's tribal areas to lay down arms and hold talks with the government.
"Unfortunately some people used terrorism as a way of expression. But now there is a democratic government in the country and we request these people to give up terrorism," Gillani told the parliament while laying out his government's policies for the first 100 days in office.
"We are ready to hold talks with all those people who will lay down their arms," he added.
More than 1,000 people, including hundreds of Pakistani security personnel, have died in suicide bombings over the last 12 months.
The attacks are mainly carried out by pro-Taliban militants entrenched in country's tribal areas next to Afghanistan.
Initially, the militant groups and al-Qaeda terrorists took refuge in the region after the United States invaded Afghanistan in 2001. They used the region to launch cross-border attacks on NATO-led forces in Afghanistan.
But they began targeting Pakistani forces when President Pervez Musharraf sent around 90,000 troops to curb militant activities, mainly under US pressure.
Gillani said that despite offering negotiations to the rebels, the new government would remain committed to its endeavour against the menace of terrorism.
"Elimination of terrorism is our first priority. As a result of the terrorism so many of our children, men and women have lost their lives," he said.