PESHAWAR: A Pakistani Taliban spokesman and another commander have denied the group is in peace talks with the government. The militants contacted The Associated Press by telephone Sunday, a day after Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, recognized by many as the Pakistani Taliban’s deputy chief, announced the group was negotiating with the government. He was the first named commander to confirm talks. Spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan denied the claims, saying there would be no negotiations until the government imposed Islamic law, or Shariah, in the country. He has previously denied reports of peace talks by unnamed commanders and intelligence officials.
“Talks by a handful of people with the government cannot be deemed as the Taliban talking,” Ehsan told The Associated Press by telephone from an undisclosed location. Maulvi Faqir Mohammed has long been identified as the group’s Bajaur head. But he reportedly fled to Afghanistan in recent years to escape army operations. He has long been identified as head of the Pakistani Taliban in Bajur and said a deal with the government there could be a “role model” for the rest of the border region. But another commander, Mullah Dadullah, also now claims to be Taliban chief in Bajur. Dadullah contacted the AP on Sunday and denied the group, also known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban, or TTP, was negotiating with the government.
“As TTP chief responsible for Bajur, I am categorically saying there are no talks going on between the government and the Tehrik-e-Taliban at the Bajur level or the central level,” Dadullah said, also speaking from an undisclosed location. Ehsan, the spokesman, said Dadullah rather than Mohammed was the head of the Pakistani Taliban in Bajur.