Pak rejects cleric’s plea to end military offensive

PESHAWAR: Pakistan provincial authorities said that they rejected today a pro-Taliban cleric’s request to halt an offensive against Islamist fighters as peace talks between the two camps resumed.

Government officials and cleric Sufi Mohammad met for the first time Friday after talks were suspended Monday when Pakistan, under intense US pressure, launched an offensive against Taliban fighters in the northwest.

Provincial officials and supporters of Mohammad described the 30-minute meeting as “positive” but no date for a second meeting was announced.

“Sufi Mohammad asked us to halt the operation,” information minister of North West Frontier Province, Mian Iftikhar Hussain, told AFP.

“The operation will be halted when the armed people lay down their weapons because the government has to establish its writ at any cost,” he added.

But Mohammad’s spokesman told AFP the government had given assurances that the operation would be stopped in the districts of Buner and Lower Dir.