ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Representatives from many of Pakistan's political parties Thursday called on their government to engage in peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, on a day when continuing militant violence in the country's northwest killed at least 18 people.
The call for a "peace through dialogue" was spearheaded by the Awami National Party, a secular political party that rules the restive northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province, where Taliban violence has been most concentrated since 2007. The initiative followed recent overtures from the Pakistani Taliban that suggested it was ready for talks.
The proposal is entirely separate from efforts in Afghanistan, supported by the Western alliance, to draw the Afghan Taliban -- a related but separate group -- into negotiations.
Following daylong deliberation at a luxury hotel in Islamabad, representatives from 27 political parties issued a joint, one-page statement. But there is widespread skepticism about whether the Pakistani Taliban, which aims to overthrow the state, is really open to negotiations. It is equally unclear whether the powerful military is fully behind the process.
Two opposition political parties, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which is led by Imran Khan, and Jamaat-e-Islami, considered the most organized Islamic party, declined to attend the meeting on Thursday.
The meeting came after a decade of domestic conflict that has cost thousands of civilian lives, and that many Pakistanis blame on their government's difficult alliance with the United States. Political opinion is increasingly wary of using force against insurgents and many instead advocate holding talks.
"Time has come for Pakistani government to withdraw from United States-led war," said a meeting participant, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, an extremist religious leader, who leads an alliance of far-right political parties and banned militant groups.
At the same time, political parties are under pressure to curry favor with right-wing voters or demonstrate their effectiveness in combating militancy in advance of the coming national election, due to take place by May.
Cyril Almeida, a columnist for Dawn, the country's leading English daily, said the Awani National Party was being driven by its own electoral needs in the northwest, and predicted that the calls for peace with the Taliban would go nowhere.
"The A.N.P. is pushing a seemingly vague agenda: keep the door to talks open while trying to build consensus for punitive actions," Mr. Almeida said, "in the likely scenario of the Taliban reverting to type and continuing down their path of violence."
Despite the tentative signs of reconciliation, militants have not slowed down their attacks.
On Thursday the police in Hangu district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa said they had killed six suicide bombers, probably of Uzbek origins, who had assaulted a police station. Elsewhere in the same district, a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into a police checkpoint, killing seven people, including four policemen.
In the neighboring Orakzai tribal region, at least eleven people were killed when a roadside bomb targeted a bus carrying members of an anti-Taliban militia. As people gathered for rescue work, another explosion went off, wounding at least 19 people.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.