ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Peace talks between the Pakistani government and the Taliban were suspended in acrimony on Monday, as a government committee refused to meet with Taliban representatives in the aftermath of the reported killing of 23 paramilitary soldiers in militant captivity.
A faction of the Taliban had claimed responsibility for the killings late Sunday, throwing an already faltering peace process into further uncertainty.
The paramilitary soldiers, belonging to the Frontier Corps, had been held hostage since 2010. A faction of the Taliban insurgents, which wields influence in the northwestern Mohmand tribal region, said that the soldiers had been killed in retaliation for recent killings of Taliban prisoners in government custody in Karachi and Peshawar.
Omar Khalid Khurasani, a spokesman for the Taliban faction in the Mohmand tribal region, warned of more attacks against security forces.
“We want to make it clear to the government that we know how to take revenge,” Mr. Khurasani said.
Pakistani government officials deny extrajudicial killings and dismissed the Taliban claims as propaganda.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the news of the killing of paramilitary soldiers, describing it as a “brutal and heinous act” that would hurt the peace talks.
“Pakistan cannot afford such bloodshed,” Mr. Sharif said in a statement released by his office.
Irfan Siddiqui, the top government negotiator, while canceling a scheduled meeting with Taliban representatives on Monday, said that it was useless to hold talks right after the killing of paramilitary soldiers.
“We have to say with regret that things are not moving in the right direction,” Mr. Siddiqui said. He did not say when talks might resume.
The Taliban representatives expressed disappointment at the cancellation of the meeting.
Mr. Sharif first announced the holding of peace talks with the Taliban on Jan. 29 despite growing demands in the country for military action against the militants.
The United States has been pressuring Pakistan to conduct an offensive against the Taliban in North Waziristan, the rugged tribal region that has been a haven for Taliban and Qaeda militants operating in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Before Mr. Sharif announced the start of the peace talk process, Pakistani civil and military officials had been signaling for weeks that a military offensive was under preparation.
Skepticism prevails in Pakistan about the possible success of dialogue with Taliban militants, who have been linked to many attacks. Last week, Taliban insurgents claimed responsibility for the killing of 13 police officers when a police bus in which they were riding in Karachi was bombed.
NOWSHERA/MIRAMSHAH: As the killing of 23 detained paramilitary soldiers cast a pall over peace talks between the government and Taliban, a spokesman for the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said on Monday that the Taliban in Mohmand Agency might have avenged the killing of their colleagues.
Talking to Dawn on phone from an unspecified place, Shahidullah Shahid said custodial killings could further complicate the dialogue process.
He alleged that 23 people who were in government custody had been killed over the past three days — 16 in Nowshera district and seven in Karachi.
“The killing of 16 people belonging to the Mohmand Agency might have enraged the Taliban in the region and they killed the 23 soldiers,” he said.
The spokesman said the government should stop its operation and avoid obstructing peace talks. The TTP wanted sincere and serious talks with the government, he added.
The TTP Mohmand chapter headed by Umar Khalid Khorasani claimed on Sunday night to have killed 23 paramilitary personnel they had captured during an attack on a checkpost in the tribal region in 2010.
Source : NYTimes , Dawn