Taliban peace talks break down

* Govt body refuses to meet Taliban team after execution of 23 FC soldiers * Taliban negotiators says they were close to an understanding on ceasefire but govt called off meeting
Taliban peace talks break down

ISLAMABAD: The much-hyped controversial peace talks with Taliban broke down on Monday following execution of 23 FC soldiers captured from Shongari checkpost in 2010 by a terrorist outfit calling itself Mohmand Agency Taliban – in a devastating blow to the PML-N government’s ‘last-ditch’ efforts to bring peace to the terror-stricken nation through negotiations.
The four-member government negotiating committee immediately cancelled a scheduled visit to Akora Khattak for a meeting with the Taliban committee. “It is a unanimous decision. I myself phoned Yousaf Shah and informed him that we are not coming,” advisor to prime minister and coordinator of government committee Irfan Siddiqui told journalists. “We do not want to play meetings,” he said, and added that the martyrdom of FC personnel is a highly condemnable act that cannot be tolerated.
“We regret to say that things are not moving in the right direction. Peace talks are purposeless after the sad and condemnable murders,” Siddiqui said. A meeting will be convened on Tuesday (today) to discuss the future course of action, he added. 
Another member of the committee, Rahimullah Yousufzai, said it was necessary for them to discuss the killings of FC soldiers with the government before any further interaction with the TTP negotiators. He said it was not yet confirmed whether TTP had ordered the killings or someone else did it just to spoil the peace process.
Rustum Shah Mohmand, another member of the government negotiating team, said putting the talks back on track will be a huge challenge. “There is only one way, what I think, to salvage the peace process: the main body of TTP dissociates itself from the statement of Omar Khalid Khurasani. Or, if they declare he is not an integral constituent of their movement and that he has given the statement in his personal capacity or (may be) to sabotage the peace process,” he opined.
Mohmand said the peace process had entered into a ‘blind alley’. “Only an unconditional ceasefire by Taliban and release of Shahbaz Taseer, son of slain Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, and Ali Haider Gilani, son of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, could help the cause.”
The Taliban negotiating team has, however, regretted that the Akora Khattak meeting could not take place. “We were close to reaching an understanding on ceasefire but it is sad that the government committee called off the meeting after considering us as Taliban,” Yousuf Shah told a press conference. Taliban committee is only a negotiating team, he said and added, “We are not separate from the government committee. They should not consider us Taliban.”
He said the two committees should have held the meeting to jointly work out ways to prevent the recurrence of such incidents in future as well as restoration of peace in the country. “We regret that government team did not come for a meeting today. We could have done a fruitful discussion on restoration of peace,” he said.
He said military operation will only bring more bloodshed, displacement and terrorism to the country. “It’s not a solution,” he said, and added that both committees need to re-establish contacts and launch renewed efforts to end violence in the country.
The other committee member, Professor Ibrahim, said both sides should exercise patience and restraint. He said they could not defend Taliban as many hands were active in the region. He said Taliban committee was acting only as negotiators and it should not be made a party. He said they wished an early ceasefire could be agreed but it looked difficult after the latest developments.
Maulana Samiul Haq chaired the Taliban committee meeting, attended by Maulana Yousaf Shah and Professor Ibrahim Khan.

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