PESHAWAR: The Pakistani Taliban insisted they are still at war with government troops because peace talks have yet to start and the military is still launching multiple offensives against them.
The announcement came two days after two senior military officers were killed by a Taliban bomb 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, main spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), said yesterday from an undisclosed location.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who took office after winning elections in May, has called for peace talks and last week won backing from main political parties.
But hopes that the talks would go ahead were dealt a blow when a Taliban bomb on Sunday killed three soldiers including a major-general. Analysts said the attack endangered the proposed peace talks with the insurgent group. Pakistan army chief General Ashfaq Kayani on Monday said militants would not be allowed to take advantage of the peace talks offer.
But the Taliban 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 on Sunday 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. 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.