Pakistan halts peace talks
Government plans upended by attack
ISLAMABAD – Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called off plans for unconditional peace talks with militant insurgents after a series of deadly terrorist attacks that culminated in Sunday’s suicide bombing of a church, which killed 83 people.
“We had proposed peace talks with the Taliban in good faith but … because of this attack, the government is unable to move forward with what it planned and envisaged,” a visibly upset Sharif said late Sunday on a flight to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly.
Peace talks with militants from the Pakistani Taliban were a key part of Sharif’s platform in the campaign ahead of May’s parliamentary elections, which his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party won. The Taliban seemed to favor his proposal, excluding from their pre-election terror campaign candidates from Sharif’s party and another party that had favored peace talks, the Movement for Justice Party.
But since Sharif won approval for the talks in September from leaders of the country’s political parties, the Taliban have stepped up attacks.
Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud incensed the military by assassinating a two-star army general Sept. 15 in the northern Dir district, where Pakistani troops have been fighting Pakistani Taliban factions that fled there after military campaigns in 2009.
Sharif’s choice of words indicated little hope of salvaging the peace initiative. He described the insurgents as “enemies of Pakistan” and apostates.
“Terrorists have no religion. … Targeting innocent people is against the teachings of Islam and all other faiths,” he said.