Pakistan watchers have always been skeptical that negotiations
with the outlawed militant group could ever bring peace in a country
where the Taliban are fighting to topple the government and set up
an Islamic state.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced the latest round of talks last
month just as speculation was heating up that the army was preparing
to launch a major ground and air offensive against Islamist
strongholds on its western frontier.
"It is sad that we are not moving in the right direction," Irfan
Siddiqui, a government negotiator, said in a statement, adding that
there was now "no use" holding a meeting with Taliban
representatives planned for Monday.
The Taliban wing operating in the tribal Mohmand agency said in a
statement the Pakistani soldiers, who were kidnapped in 2010, had
been executed in revenge for the killing of their fighters by army
It also issued a video message in Pashto explaining its motives but
the footage did not show the bodies.
The Pakistani Taliban's main spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, could
not immediately say if Mohmand Taliban actions had been endorsed by
the movement's central command or indeed when or whether the
negotiations would resume.
In a sign the central Taliban leadership was not in control of its
fringe groups, a cleric representing the insurgents in the talks
distanced himself from the Mohmand attack.
"We are also sad to hear the news of the Mohmand agency incident,"
Maulana Yousuf Shah said in remarks broadcast on Pakistani
The Pakistani Taliban, who operate separately from their Afghan
namesakes, are deeply divided, so striking a deal with the central
leadership is unlikely to result in peace.
Many in Pakistan believe the government is setting itself for
failure by trying to talk to a group which has killed about 40,000
people since the birth of the insurgency in 2007.
Overshadowed by persistent violence, talks faltered shortly after
starting on February 6, with more than 100 people dying in insurgent
violence across the country since then.
[to top of second column]
The Taliban however have so far claimed responsibility only for one
attack, the one on Thursday when 13 policemen were killed in a bomb
"Such incidents are affecting the peace talks negatively after they
started to bring a peaceful solution to the problem," Sharif said in
"Pakistan cannot afford such bloodshed. ... The situation is very
sad and the whole nation is shocked."
A failure to reach a negotiated ceasefire would also raise the
specter of a major military offensive in North Waziristan, a region
where many al Qaeda-linked militants are based.
But it is also bound to unnerve ordinary people in Pakistan tired
after years of violence in a region already nervous ahead of a
planned foreign troops withdrawal from neighboring Afghanistan this
The army publicly supports Sharif's call for talks but in private
senior officers speak strongly against it, giving rise to talk that
the military is waiting for an excuse to go into action.
In a possible sign of the changing mood, Imran Khan, a
cricketer-turned-politician who has been an outspoken proponent of
the talks, said in a statement: "Clearly this is also a direct
sabotage of the peace talks in the most barbaric way possible".
(Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld;
writing by Maria Golovnina)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.