Pakistani Taliban declare a one-month ceasefire to revive peace talks
Pakistani militants say they have a guarantee from government they won't be attacked
Reuters in Islamabad
The Pakistani Taliban yesterday announced a one-month ceasefire aimed at reviving peace talks after receiving what it said were government assurances it would not be attacked.
A government negotiator could not confirm such guarantees, but said talks could resume if the ceasefire was honoured.
Speculation has mounted in recent weeks that the Pakistani military is planning an offensive against the insurgents after talks between the militants and government broke down.
"The senior leadership of the Taliban advises all subgroups to respect the Taliban's call for a ceasefire and abide by it and completely refrain from all jihadi activities in this time period," spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said.
Peace talks between the Pakistani government and Taliban insurgents began on February 6 but broke down after insurgents said they executed 23 men from a government paramilitary force in revenge for the killing of their fighters by army forces.
The Pakistani Taliban is fighting to topple Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government and impose sharia law.
Attacks have been on the rise since Sharif came to power in May, promising a negotiated end to violence.
Senior Taliban officials said they announced the ceasefire after receiving assurances from the civilian government that they would not be attacked.
"Senior officials of the federal government promised us the government and its law-enforcement agencies would not take any action against our people in the country," a senior Taliban commander said.
"You can say the government first announced a ceasefire and we did it later."
He declined to say who in the government made the ceasefire guarantee.
Spokesman Shahid confirmed said the Taliban shura - an assembly -agreed unanimously on the ceasefire after receiving government promises.
Irfan Siddiqui, a government negotiator, said the government team would meet early this week to discuss the ceasefire and potentially restarting peace talks.
"If they are able to implement the ceasefire effectively and control the other groups, I think we could restart [talks]," he said. "It is a positive development."
However, violence earlier yesterday showed how difficult it could be for the Taliban to enforce a ceasefire, let alone for the two sides to forge a peace deal.
Militants killed 12 members of the security escort for a polio vaccination team in northwestern Pakistan, detonating a roadside bomb before opening fire on their convoy, officials said.
Polio vaccination teams are frequently attacked, as are government security forces.
Some religious leaders have denounced the multibillion-dollar vaccination campaign as a cover for spying or a plot to secretly sterilise Muslim children.