Negotiators representing the Pakistani government and Taliban will not meet for preliminary peace talks that were meant to be taking place following a spate of killings.
Two teams, nominated by the government and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), were due to gather in Islamabad at 2:00pm (0900 GMT) to chart a preliminary "roadmap" for the talks on Tuesday. This was meant to pave the way for the beginnings of the peace talks.
Specifically, the government wants to know the nature of the relationship between the TTP-appointed committee and the TTP\’s own leadership council.
Pakistani Taliban negotiators have condemned the failure of government representatives to meet them in Islamabad, as preliminary peace efforts got off to a chaotic start.
Lead Taliban negotiator Sami ul-Haq told AFP news agency: "Today it has been exposed how serious the government is about talks.
"They are making a joke of talks and joking with the nation. On one side they are saying they are talking to the Taliban and on the other side they are making (a) joke of these talks."
He and his colleagues left Islamabad later in the day.
The government\’s lead negotiator, Irfan Siddiqui, made clear he still expected talks to go ahead, but sought more information on the make-up of the Taliban team and how much authority it had to negotiate.
"We want the talks to be meaningful… We can start as soon as we know this," he told reporters.
The Taliban responded to the government\’s request for clarification by saying its committee will have the three members all of whom are ready for the talks. It is now up to the government to respond.
Last week, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif named a team to begin dialogue with the Taliban, who have been waging a violent campaign against the state since 2007.
Many observers had been anticipating a military offensive against TTP strongholds in Pakistan\’s tribal areas, following a bloody start to the year on both sides, with the government responding to Taliban violence with raids on Waziristan strongholds.
More than 110 people were killed in attacks in January, many of them military personnel.
Critics have accused Sharif\’s government of dithering in response to the violence.
The TTP has said in the past that it opposes democracy and wants Islamic sharia imposed throughout Pakistan, while the government has stressed the country\’s constitution must remain paramount.
The TTP had asked cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan to be part of their team but he declined.
The two sides held separate meetings in Islamabad on Monday and later decided to talk each other on Tuesday, Khan said.
Prime Minister Sharif, who was elected last May, has been under mounting pressure to bring the violence under control, with many accusing his government in recent months of lacking a strategy to deal with the militants.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies