Notwithstanding the intense infighting between its two key factions, the Pakistani Taliban Saturday said peace talks with the government are on the track.
Taliban liaison committee member Maulana Yusuf Shah said fighting between two “minor” groups of the Taliban would have no effect on the talks and the situation would be clear in the next two-three days.
He said contacts have been made with the Taliban ‘shura’ or council and the infighting would not affect the talks with the government.
His remarks came after a meeting of the outlawed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’s shura at an undisclosed place in North Waziristan yesterday to decide about extending or ending the ceasefire that expired on Thursday.
Azim Tariq, member of the Taliban’s political council, told Geo TV that the infighting was blown out of proportion by the media and insisted that all issues have been settled.
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He said that the talks were making headway gradually.
The infighting within the influential Mehsud tribe – that began on Sunday claiming nearly 40 lives so far in the country’s lawless tribal region – has cast a shadow over the fledgling peace talks.
The infighting involves a faction led by Khan Said, known as Sajna, and a rival group led by a commander called Shehryar over leadership of the Taliban’s powerful Mehsud wing.
The conflict dates back to the enmity between two Mehsud commanders – Waliur Rehman and Hakimullah Mehsud – who were killed by US drone strikes last year.
Their deaths led to Mullah Fazlullah, outside the Mehsud tribe, taking control of the Taliban for the first time since it came into being in 2007.
The government is holding talks with the banned outfit to find a solution to the deadly cycle of violence that has claimed over 40,000 lives.
At the beginning of peace talks with the government, the TTP announced a month-long ceasefire on March 1. Later, it extended it for 10 days to give peace talks a chance.
But no important development has taken place during the 10-day period except for the release of over a dozen non-combatant detainees.
Taliban have set two conditions for further progress. The first is an immediate release of nearly 400 non-combatant prisoners and the second for declaration of a “peace zone” for talks in tribal area where militants can freely move about.
The TTP thinks that the government has yet to show a positive gesture in this regard.