South Asia

Pakistan's Rehman Malik: Taliban must disarm for talks

File photo of Taliban fighters in Swat, November 2007
Image caption Peace talks with the Taliban in Swat valley were not successful

Pakistan will hold peace talks with the Taliban only if the militants lay down their weapons first, Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said.

He told reporters the Taliban would not "keep Kalashnikovs... and hold talks".

Both sides have indicated they are open to negotiations, but analysts doubt the insurgents, who are at war with the Pakistani state, would agree to disarm.

No such condition was set for previous talks, which failed to end violence in which thousands have died.

Mr Malik said that the minimum agenda for talks was for the insurgents to give up arms.

"If they think they will keep Kalashnikovs in their hands and also hold talks, that will not happen," he said.

Correspondents say his comments may not reflect official Pakistani policy.

In the past, peace talks with militants in tribal areas near the Afghan border have resulted in short-lived accords and accusations that Pakistan was providing the militants with sanctuary.

The Pakistani army has conducted a series of offensives against strongholds of the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban, along the mountainous and remote border with Afghanistan.

But it has failed to curtail the activities of the group, which is close to al-Qaeda.

Militants in Pakistan have carried out a series of devastating suicide bombings and other attacks across the country since 2007 in an attempt to overthrow the US-backed government.

Earlier this month, a senior Pakistani Taliban leader told the BBC that talks with Islamabad would not succeed until US forces leave Afghanistan in 2014.

Washington is pressing Islamabad to take further military action against the militants.

Bhutto 'kidnap plot'

On Tuesday Mr Malik released details of what he said was an plan by militants to kidnap Bilawal Bhutto, the son of President Zardari and murdered Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

He also confirmed that militants were holding Shahbaz Taseer, son of murdered Punjab Governor Salman Taseer.

Mr Taseer's car was was intercepted by four men in Lahore in August, seven months after his father was killed for opposing the country's blasphemy law.