Taliban leadership divided on extending ceasefire

Published April 3, 2014
Central spokesman for Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Shahidullah Shahid (right). – File Photo
Central spokesman for Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Shahidullah Shahid (right). – File Photo

PESHAWAR: Due to prevailing difference of opinion among their ranks, the Pakistani Taliban have not extended a month-long ceasefire but are still open to pursuing peace talks with the government, a spokesman for the insurgent movement said Wednesday.

Central spokesman for Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Shahidullah Shahid said some Taliban leaders had objected to extending the ceasefire, which lasted during the month of March.

“No decision has been made regarding extension in ceasefire,” he said, adding that a meeting of the central Shura (council) would soon be held on the matter.

Shahidullah accused the government of arresting more than 120 TTP militants and not accepting any of their demands during the month-long ceasefire.

The TTP and the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are now involved in their second round of peace talks. A first round failed in February after the Taliban bombed a police bus and executed 23 men kidnapped from a government paramilitary force.

The government then refused to hold further talks until the Taliban announced a ceasefire on March 1.

Government negotiators were not available Wednesday to comment on whether talks would continue.

Taliban negotiators have demanded the government release 800 prisoners they describe as innocent family members and withdraw the army from part of the semi-autonomous tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

“We gave this list and names of our civilian prisoners as a test case and wanted to see if the government was serious,” one commander said. “But we felt that the government is either powerless or not serious in talks.”

Ibrahim Khan, a Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) leader representing the Taliban in the talks, said they had presented their demands on March 29 but had no answer from the government. He did not know if talks would continue without a ceasefire.

Taliban spokesman Shahid accused the government of continuing to kill Taliban during the ceasefire, especially in Karachi, the country's largest city. Taliban fighters are so prevalent in some neighbourhoods that law enforcement agencies are sometimes reluctant to enter.

Taliban commander Omar Khalid Khurasani, from the northern Mohmand region on the other hand said that attacks would begin again in Pakistan.

“There would be more attacks in which common people suffer as the government isn't sincere in peace talks,” he told Reuters.

Pakistan was not entirely peaceful during the ceasefire. A militant group calling itself Ahrarul Hind launched a rare attack in Islamabad, killing at least 11 in a court including a judge.

The Taliban said they were not responsible for the actions of other militant groups.

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