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Pakistan peace talks cancelled after militants kill 23 soldiers

Islamabad, Feb 18 (): Peace talks between the Pakistani government and the Taliban broke down on Monday, as a government committee denied to meet with Taliban representatives after insurgents said they executed 23 soldiers in revenge for army operations in the unstable tribal regions on the Afghan border.

The Pakistan government and the Taliban are involved in peace talks in an effort to end the decade-long insurgency that has gripped the country. The meeting was supposed to be held on Monday, 17th February. But, state negotiators withdrew from the meeting, saying situations involving negotiations with the Pakistani Taliban were not heading in the right direction.

The coordinator of the government committee made to hold peace talks with negotiators representing the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Irfan Siddiqui said after the killing of 23 Frontier Corps (FC) soldiers, holding talks with the group was a useless enterprise.

Putting the talks back on path will be a difficult task, said Rustum Shah Mohmand, a member of the government negotiating team.

In a video statement sent to media last night, Mohmand Agency Taliban chief Umar Khalid Khurasani said that they killed the FC soldiers on Sunday to avenge what he said was the safeguarding killing of Taliban fighters in Pakistan. The soldiers were kidnapped in 2010 from Shongari checkpost in Mohmand Agency.

In a statement given by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Monday, he condemned the ‘heinous’ executions. He said such incidents have a very negative impact on the ongoing dialogue aimed at promoting peace. He added that the government had decided for talks in light of the undivided decision taken at an all-party conference in September last year and grieved that such efforts in the past were ‘sabotaged’ whenever they touched an encouraging stage. He said Pakistan cannot afford such bloodshed.

Army authorities call the latest killings as a highly provoking terrorist act, saying Taliban claims of “killing of terrorists in their custody are baseless and meant only to justify dastardly acts of terror.”