PESHAWAR, Pakistan – The deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban announced Saturday that the militant group was in peace talks with the government and an agreement to end its brutal four-year insurgency was within striking distance.
The statement by Malvi Faqir Mohammad, which appeared timed to exploit tensions between the Pakistan army and the U.S., will likely stoke further concerns in Washington over Pakistan’s reliability as a long-term partner in the fight against extremists.
It represented the first time a named Taliban commander has confirmed that the group is negotiating with the Pakistani government. Still, it was unclear whether Mohammad speaks for the entirety of the increasingly factionalized network, especially its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud.
Asked about the alleged negotiations, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that his government has followed a policy of “dialogue, deterrence and development” to tackle militants who are based in the lawless, Afghan border region.
“That is a continuing process,” he told a local television station.
Despite pushing for peace talks to end the related insurgency in Afghanistan, Washington is unlikely to support similar efforts to strike a deal in Pakistan.