Peace talks collapse as Taliban execute 23 Pakistani soldiers
Government negotiators pull out of negotiations due on Monday as politicians condemn latest killings
11:30AM GMT 17 Feb 2014
A Pakistan Taliban faction announced the execution of 23 soldiers on Monday, dealing a fresh blow to already dwindling hopes that peace talks might end years of violence.
The militant group had been expected to announce a ceasefire this week as a precursor to substantive negotiations.
Instead the Mohmand wing of the group announced the killing of 23 Frontier Corps soldiers who had been held since 2010.
Omar Khalid Khurassani, a commander of the group, said: “We have warned the government time and again through the media to stop the killing of our friends, who were in the custody of security forces, but the government continued killing our people.”
The announcement provoked widespread condemnation.
Nawaz Sharif, the country’s prime minister, who shocked many at the end of last month by announcing his plans to give peace talks one last chance, accused the militants of sabotaging the peace process.
“Such incidents have an extremely negative impact on the ongoing dialogue aimed at promoting peace,” he said in a statement issued by his office.
Government negotiators had been due to meet a team representing the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) on Monday, but cancelled a meeting as the news emerged.
Irfan Siddiqui, a government negotiator said there was no point.
“It is sad that we are not moving in the right direction,” he said.
The Frontier Corps, a paramilitary forces tasked with operating along Pakistan’s border regions, has frequently been targeted by militants.
The latest deaths will strengthen the critics of talks who wonder how it is possible to negotiate with terrorists even as they continue to kill.
Much of the country had expected Mr Sharif to announce a major ground offensive against militant havens and now hope the failure of talks wills force him to turn to the Army.
A security official described the latest killings as a “blatant act of terror”.
“Killing of terrorists in the custody of security forces as being accused by the TTP is a baseless allegation and is a mere propaganda to justify their dastardly acts of terror,” he said.
Imran Khan, who has been one of the most vocal supporters of reconciliation, issued a statement saying “this barbaric act was against the teachings of Islam and must be condemned in the strongest terms”.
He added that the government should have done more to secure the release of the prisoners.