Peace talks between Pakistan and the Taliban were delayed on Tuesday due to both sides accusing the other about not having an interest in serious dialogue. The Pakistani Prime Minister had handpicked a four man team to meet with three Taliban clerics on Tuesday afternoon.
The Pakistani government wanted more clarification from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but the request only enraged the team and brought any hopes for the talks to a halt, claimed Pakistani officials. The government leader made it clear that he still expected talks to have the green light, but only wanted clarification from the Taliban team on the makeup of the group and how much negotiating authority they had.
He told reporters that he wanted the talks to be meaningful and that talks would start as soon as they had the answers. Another reason for the Pakistani Taliban peace talk delay on Tuesday is due to the refusal of two high-ranking Taliban members to attend, Mufti Kifayatullah, a rightwing religious party member, and cricketer turned politician, Khan.
A Pakistani government appointed officials told The Guardian that the decisions of Khan and Kifayatullah had “put a question mark on the talks.”
The Pakistani government is seeking a clear mandate from the Taliban and wants to be sure that the representatives they are negotiating with have the authority to discuss the issues and make “actual decisions,” according to Irfan Siddiqui, a member of Pakistani’s committee, who spoke in Pakistan’s defense for cancelling the peace talk meeting on Tuesday.
However, a member of the Taliban’s committee, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, turned the tables, accusing them of the delay in Pakistani Taliban peace talk as a means of “sabotage.” He said that they had waited three hours for the Pakistani government. He believes that the Pakistanis were back tracking and that the Taliban is “ready for talks.” He told the BBC that the Taliban had planned on working out a strategy of mutual consent about how and where to begin and that the delay was “disappointing.”
This continuing struggle only adds to the challenges facing Pakistan Prime Minister Sharif, as he attempts to find some kind of common ground with the Taliban group that in 2008 tried a coup d’état to remove the government and replace it with Islamic Law.
Sharif has made Pakistani Taliban peace talks a top priority since returning to office, but in light of several recent acts of violence against the military, experts speculate that he will have to forsake his peaceful strategy for a more forceful approach.
More than 100 people, most of them soldiers, were killed in January due to Taliban attacks all over the country. Thousands have lost their lives since the bloody conflict began some years ago. Many analysts agree that this will continue and escalate in to a full-blown military operation, especially as the peace talks between Pakistan and the Taliban were delayed on Tuesday. Aleem Maqbool, a BBC correspondent living in Islamabad, says many in Pakistan fear that the talks will give the militants time to grow and become a stronger force and that previous Pakistani Taliban peace talks have ended in failure.
By Adam Stier