Pakistani Taliban sacks commander for welcoming talks offer

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The Pakistani Taliban on Saturday announced they have removed a key commander for welcoming a call for dialogue by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif over ending bloodshed that has left thousands dead.

Ismatullah Muaweea, the head of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Punjab province chapter, on Thursday hailed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's offer, saying that the prime minister had shown maturity.

Sharif made the offer to extremists on Monday in his first televised address to the nation since taking office after winning elections in May -- a sweeping, hour-long speech that focused on Pakistan’s myriad problems.

“Wisdom demands that we follow a path where we minimize the loss of innocent lives,” said Sharif.

But TTP distanced itself from Muaweea’s comments and said that the commander has no more role in the outfit.

“The Taliban decision making body met under Commander Hakimullah Mehsud and decided that Ismatullah Muaweea has no relation with the TTP,” Shahidullah Shahid, Taliban spokesman, told AFP.

“He is respectable for us, but he has no relation with the TTP. The decision about the new head of TTP’s Punjab chapter will be taken in next meeting of our decision makers,” he said.

Muaweea’s response to Sharif’s speech was surprising for many because the Taliban had earlier withdrawn their own peace talks offer after one of their main commanders was killed in a U.S. drone strike in the northwest Pakistan.

In his statement, distributed in Wana, the main town in the lawless South Waziristan tribal district bordering Afghanistan, Muaweea praised the government’s step.

“The prime minister has shown maturity with his talks offer and he has also strengthened the desire for peace by staying executions,” he said.

Pakistan on Sunday ordered a temporary stay of executions following objections from the president and rights groups, days before they were due to resume after a five-year moratorium.

The country has more than 7,000 prisoners on death row, one of the largest populations of prisoners facing execution in the world.

Pakistani Taliban militants, who have been waging a domestic insurgency since 2007, have said they will consider the executions of any of their prisoners a declaration of war.

Pakistan says tens of thousands of people have been killed in the country as a result of terrorism since 2001.

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