Pakistan Taliban: still at war with government troops

PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban on Tuesday insisted they were still at war with government troops because peace talks have yet to start and the military is still launching multiple offensives against them.

The statement came a day after Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Kayani said militants would not be allowed to take advantage of the offer for peace talks.

Earlier on Sunday, two senior military officers were killed by a remote controlled explosive device in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where the military is fighting Al Qaeda and Taliban-led militants.

“War is continuing, it was started by the government and they will have to stop it,” Shahidullah Shahid, the main spokesman for the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), declared from an undisclosed location.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for peace talks, and managed to win the backing from main political parties last week.

However, hopes that the talks would go ahead were dealt a blow when an IED (improvised explosive device) exploded in Upper Dir on Sunday and killed three soldiers, including a major general.

Analysts said the attack endangered the proposed peace talks with the insurgent group.

Moreover, former cricketer turned politician Imran Khan who heads Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Monday called for casefire by the government and Taliban militants along with immediate formation of delegations to kick-off talks.

The Taliban have said that they would carry out more attacks because peace talks have yet to be officially proposed.

“No one has contacted us for peace talks, not even a tribal jirga has approached us. If they (government) want to end this war, they will have to announce a ceasefire,” Shahid said.

The Taliban on Sunday announced preconditions for talks on ending the insurgency that has killed thousands of people, demanding that troops withdraw from tribal areas and that prisoners are freed.

But Pakistan’s military, in turn, insisted they would not let Taliban rebels set conditions for peace talks.

When the TTP spokesman was asked about his group’s future plans after the attack which killed the officers, he said: “We will never miss any opportunity to attack the army like that.”

Previous peace deals with the Taliban have quickly broken down and been sharply criticised for allowing the extremists time to regroup for fresh attacks.

An editorial in this newspaper today said that although General Kayani spoke bluntly “about not caving in to the demands of terrorists” and underlined the military’s resolve “to defeat the terrorists”, words alone would not suffice.

Pakistan says more than 40,000 people have been killed in bomb and suicide attacks staged by the Taliban and Al Qaeda-led militants who oppose Islamabad’s US alliance.