By Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, Feb. 17 (Xinhua)-- There is now a mounting pressure for the Taliban to declare a ceasefire if it is sincere in pursuing the peace dialogue with the government in the midst of continuing attacks in some parts of Pakistan attributed to the militant group.
The Taliban initially denied involvement in some recent terror attacks, including the grenade attack on cinema houses in the northwestern city of Peshawar this month.
But they claimed responsibility for a deadly car bomb attack on a police bus in the port city of Karachi on Thursday. The attack killed 13 police officers and injured more than 30 more.
The Taliban spokesman had, in fact, defended its unprovoked attack on a police bus in Karachi.
While the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan had denied involvement in the Peshawar cinema blasts, a local Taliban leader later claimed responsibility, indicating a division within the ranks of the Taliban.
It also seems that the Taliban are not speaking with one voice in regards to the peace process with the government with hardliners obviously against it while some moderates have signified their interest in talking with the government.
Despite the start of the preliminary talks between government negotiators and representatives of the Taliban, the group refused to stop their attacks against government forces and civilian targets, prompting observers to say that the fragile dialogue process could break up sooner than expected.
The head of the Taliban negotiation team, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, said he would urge the Taliban to stop attacks for the peace process to prosper. "We will ask the Taliban to stop the attacks," Maulana Sami-ul- Haq said.
But the Taliban spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said that the militants will continue their attacks as they have not yet reached any formal ceasefire with the government.
Last month, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif formed a four-member team to begin initial talks with the militants. The Taliban had in turn nominated a five-member team of religious and political negotiators to meet with the government panel.
Pakistanis, who have suffered a lot during the 10-year violence, had a sigh of relief as the Taliban intermediaries and the official government panel sat face-to-face to explore ways to end the bloodshed and find out a negotiated solution. However, terror attacks continued unabated, raising serious apprehensions about the outcome of the talks.
Some sectors in Pakistani public, who have opposed any talks with the militants, are now saying that because of the continued attacks by the Taliban, it is now time for a military solution to the problem through an all-out war.
They said that the government should resume its offensive against the Taliban in the latter's last stronghold in North Waziristan tribal region to finally solve the problem.
But Mr. Sharif, while describing the recent attacks as posing a serious threat to the ongoing peace dialogue, has called on the negotiating panels to take up the issue and hold those responsible for attacks accountable.
Meanwhile, the country's senior religious leaders on Saturday demanded that both the Taliban militants and the government immediately declare a ceasefire for the peace dialogue to prosper.
But the problem, one analyst said, is that while the government speaks with one voice, the Taliban is obviously not united, with some of its hardliners bent on continuing with the attacks.