Kabul: Scribbled notes from Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar have surfaced in mosques all over Afghanistan`s ethnic Pashtun heartland, threatening death to anyone who takes up a government offer to negotiate for peace, according to a longtime Taliban member.
Trying to quash rumours of a break in their ranks, the Taliban also have vehemently denied reports including one by The Associated Press that representatives of the militant group were involved in negotiations with the Afghan government.
The leadership could be worried that commanders might strike separate deals that would threaten to undermine the insurgency and cripple the morale of their rank-and-file fighters.
President Hamid Karzai has made reconciliation a top priority and recently formed a 70-member High Peace Council to find a political solution to the insurgency. At the same time, the US-led coalition has ramped up its military campaign in an effort to pound midlevel commanders to the negotiating table.
There are no signs that either strategy is having much effect on the senior Taliban leadership.
A veteran Taliban member who recently visited the powerful shura ? or council ? in the Pakistani city of Quetta and controlled by Mullah Omar said there was no talk of negotiation among those who control the insurgency.
"None of the big Taliban is talking," the bulky, bearded Taliban member said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal from both the government and the religious movement. "I have been to Quetta and I know the council there is not talking."
In an interview with the AP, he said the handwritten scribbled notes started appearing in mosques shortly after news of Karzai`s peace overture was broadcast around the country. In the past, Mullah Omar has used notes and sometimes audio recordings to get his message across.
"We heard it on the radio," the Taliban member said of Karzai`s overture and reports of contacts between the Taliban and the government.
"No one in our village has televisions," explained the man, who has played an integral role in the Taliban for the past 15 years and has been interviewed numerous times by the AP since the 1990s. "The Taliban don`t allow televisions." During Taliban rule, television was banned as un-Islamic.
Even if the top Taliban leadership did not participate, a number of exploratory talks have taken place with the militants over the past two years, according to lawmakers, peace council delegates and former and current members of the Taliban.