Pakistani Taliban split over Sharif`s peace offer

Differences emerged on Saturday among Taliban factions over talks with the government after the main militant group expelled a top commander for welcoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif`s offer to end violence through dialogue.

Last Updated: Aug 24, 2013, 18:45 PM IST

Islamabad: Differences emerged on Saturday among Taliban factions over talks with the government after the main militant group expelled a top commander for welcoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif`s offer to end violence through dialogue.

Punjabi Taliban chief Asmatullah Muawiya, who had on Thursday said Sharif had shown maturity by asking rebels to join peace efforts, was expelled by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

A spokesman of the TTP, an umbrella group of over a dozen factions, said Muawiya had no authority to respond to the government`s offer as such decisions are solely the domain of the high powered `Shura` or council.

"We have nothing to do with Muawiya from today and we will appoint a new chief of the Punjabi Taliban," said spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

The TTP is headed by warlord Hakimullah Mehsud, a hardliner who has so far rejected all peace moves by the government.

Muawiya is also head of the dreaded Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the largest militant group in central Punjab province. He has been linked to deadly attacks on the security forces and the minority Shia community.

The Punjabi Taliban and the LeJ are also linked to al Qaeda.

Media reported that in his immediate reaction to his removal by the Taliban, Muawiya said the TTP had no authority to do so as he was independent of them.

Sharif, in his first televised speech on Thursday, asked the militants to enter peace talks to end deadly violence in the country.

The ongoing bombings, gun battles and suicide attacks have killed over 40,000 people across Pakistan in the past six years.

PTI