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Pakistan Officials and Taliban Meet for First Peace Talks

A Pakistani government committee met with Taliban representatives Wednesday for the first face-to-face peace talks ever.
Image: Aftermath of Taliban peace talks
Head of the Taliban committee Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, left, speaks to journalists about peace talks with the Pakistan government delegation, in Peshawar, Pakistan, on March 26, 2014. Negotiators from Pakistan's government met Taliban leaders Wednesday in the first direct contact since the peace process began last year. BILAWAL ARBAB / EPA

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A Pakistani government committee met with Taliban representatives Wednesday for the first face-to-face peace talks ever between the two sides.

The Pakistan government committee held the talks with a five-member Taliban committee in Bilandkhel, a village close to the troubled North Waziristan tribal region, but the group did not reach any consensus beyond agreeing to meet for further talks.

“Both sides carefully listened to each other for seven hours,” said an insider at the meeting who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

But senior members of the Taliban said that the government failed to show sincerity in the talks.

“After announcing a ceasefire on March 1, we made three demands from the government and the government agreed with us,” a senior member of the Taliban said on condition of anonymity.

“We demanded a separate place in the tribal areas where we could live and easily move. Secondly, we asked them for immediate release of non-combatant prisoners, including women, children and elderly people ... The third demand was for an end of the extra-judicial killing of (Pakistani Taliban) prisoners in jails.”

He said the Taliban was pleased that there has been a considerable decline in extra-judicial killing of jailed members, but complained that the government had not fulfilled its promise to arrange a space for them or free civilian prisoners.

“Some of our people actually didn’t want to stop fighting against the government. We persuaded them and asked them to give us names of their prisoners. It made them happy and they stopped fighting.”

But, he added they won’t be happy about the ceasefire once they realize the government is not going to free their people.

Another Pakistan Taliban commander in North Waziristan also said there was no breakthrough in the first round of talks with the government committee.

“We sincerely started this peace process, despite the opposition of some of our people. But now only the government can make it productive,” he said, also on the condition of anonymity.

Nevertheless, he said the Taliban decided to extend the ceasefire for the meantime until the next round of talks.

— Mushtaq Yusufzai, NBC News