In a major setback to peace talks, the Pakistani Taliban on Wednesday refused to extend the 40-day "gift of ceasefire" but said they were committed to the process the government initiated to find a solution to the decade-long insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan at the beginning of March announced a month-long ceasefire and later extended it by another 10 days to give the fledgling peace talks a chance. "The TTP's central shura or council has unanimously agreed not to extend the ceasefire," the banned outfit said in a statement.
“However, the talks process will continue with complete sincerity and seriousness, and whenever a clear development comes from the government side, the TTP will not hesitate to respond with a serious move," it said.
TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said the Taliban shura took the decision because over 50 of their activists were killed in custody during the past 40 days and that the justifiable demands of the militant organisation were not met.
TTP Mohmand Agency chief Umer Khalid Khurrsani also issued a statement, saying the government was not serious about peace and the only way to implement true Shariah was 'jihad'.
The statement released by the TTP said its leadership, despite differences within its ranks over the ceasefire, convinced all the groups and factions and gave a "gift of ceasefire" to the nation in the name of Islam and the country. But no progress was made by the government side over the initial demands of the TTP which were very genuine, it said.
"We deem it necessary to present the true situation before the media so that the nation could decide who was at fault and hampered the peace process. Moreover, the nation should also know that where lack of coordination lies -- either in the ranks of the government or the TTP," it said. The statement alleged that over 200 have been arrested by the government from various parts of the country for their links with the TTP.
Though the statement did not mention if the Taliban would launch any attacks, today's announcement has raised concerns on the security front. The announcement came three days after Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the peace process was about to enter a "comprehensive" phase.
"Formal comprehensive discussion and talks will start from the next meeting. It will happen in a couple of days," Khan had said, stressing that there was no deadlock. He said the government would also release 12-13 "non-combatants" as part of confidence-building measures. The Nawaz Sharif government had begun negotiations with the TTP through intermediaries in February to try to end the cycle of violence that has claimed over 40,000 lives.