Asia

Who's who in the Pakistan-Taliban peace talks?

  • 6 February 2014
  • From the section Asia
Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) committee member and senior religious party leader Maulana Sami-ul-Haq (R) shakes hands with Special Assistant to Pakistan"s prime minister Irfan Siddiqui after their meeting at the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House in Islamabad on February 6, 2014. Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Government negotiator Irfan Siddiqui (L) and Taliban representative Maulana Sami ul-Haq

The men charting the "roadmap" for peace talks are well-known figures in Pakistani politics, media and religious life.

Government-nominated team

Chief negotiator Irfan Siddiqui is the special assistant to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on national affairs. A renowned journalist and columnist for the top-selling Urdu newspaper Daily Jang, Mr Siddiqui is well-known for his conservative views and is a strong critic of the US-led war in Afghanistan. On a number of occasions he has voiced support for the Taliban insurgency against US forces in Afghanistan.

Rahimullah Yusufzai is a political and security analyst and an expert on the Taliban, Afghanistan and Pakistan's north-west tribal region. Based in the city of Peshawar close to the Afghan border, he has been has been covering the Afghan conflict since the Soviet invasion in 1979 and interviewed Osama Bin Laden and the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He is the editor of The News daily in Peshawar, and has also been a correspondent for Time magazine and the BBC.

Rustam Shah Mohmand used to be Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan and is a senior member of the Tehrik-i-Insaaf party led by former cricketer Imran Khan. Mr Mohmand is a specialist on Afghan affairs and a renowned security analyst. He was Pakistan's chief commissioner for refugees for about 10 years.

Major Mohammad Amir is a former official of the ISI intelligence service who once gave training and logistics to the Afghan mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Maj Shah belongs to a religious family. His father founded a seminary which preaches the hardline Deobandi and Wahhabi strain of Sunni Islam. The Pakistan Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah received his religious education at the school.

Taliban-nominated team

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption Taliban team (L-R): Professor Ibrahim Khan, Maulana Sami ul-Haq and Maulana Abdul Aziz

Maulana Sami ul-Haq, dubbed the "father of the Taliban" by the media, is an influential Pakistani cleric and politician whose teaching are thought to have influenced the Taliban movement. Maulana Haq is the director of one of the biggest Pakistani madrassas, Darul Uloom Haqqania, which has been seen as the incubator for radical fighters during the early 1990s. Maulana Haq once described the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar as one of his best students and an "angel-like human being". He leads a faction of the Jamiat-i-Ulema-i-Islam (Party of Islamic clergy) and was twice elected to Pakistan's senate.

Cleric Maulana Abdul Aziz is a staunch advocate of enforcing Sharia (Islamic law) in Pakistan. He was the prayer leader of the controversial Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, which was the site of a military siege in 2007 during former President Pervez Musharraf's rule. Maulana Aziz was captured during the operation when he tried to flee the mosque disguised in a burka. He was released in 2009 after 21 months in detention. He has issued numerous edicts declaring music, films and photographs of women to be moral evils.

Ibrahim Khan is a former senator from the tribal region of Bannu. He is the head of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial chapter of the Islamist political party Jamaat-i-Islami, which is a vocal supporter of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The party recently caused controversy when it called the Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike, a martyr.

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