By Muhammad Tahir
ISLAMABAD, March 17 (Xinhua)-- There has been no let-up in terrorist attacks in Pakistan despite the unilateral declaration of a ceasefire by the Pakistani Taliban on March 1.
These terrorist attacks have raised renewed apprehension over the future of the peace dialogue between the Taliban and the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
Just two days after the ceasefire was announced, militants attacked judges and lawyers in a heavily guarded court premises in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad.
Pakistan saw a bloody day on Friday when two bomb attacks on security forces killed nearly 20 people and injured over 60.
Most of the victims in the deadly blasts in the southwestern Quetta and near the northwestern Peshawar district were civilians.
Little known groups "Ahrar-ul-Hind" claimed responsibility for the two attacks. However, analysts doubted the claim by this outfit and pointed fingers at the Taliban. The same group had taken responsibility for the Islamabad court attack.
Although the Taliban had denied any involvement in recent attacks, the style of the March 3 attack was similar to all the attacks the Taliban had previously claimed.
The Taliban are now under mounting pressure to publicly condemn these attacks and cooperate with the government to identify elements that are sabotaging the dialogue.
But Shahidullah Shahid, the Taliban spokesman, has rejected calls for help to determine who could be behind the terror attacks despite declaration of a ceasefire. He said it is not the responsibility of the Taliban to investigate the attacks.
Last month, the "Ahrar-ul-Hind" group sent emails to media outlets and journalists who routinely receive the Taliban statements.
The media ignored this mysterious group as the email sender refused to respond to queries as to who they are and who their leader is.
In its first email to the media on Feb. 14, the group said it opposed the peace talks and vowed to continue the attacks. The email carried the photograph of the former Taliban chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in November.
The group received wide media coverage when a man who introduced himself as Asad Mansoor and spokesman of the "Ahrar-ul- Hind" called local and international media in Pakistan to claim responsibility for the Islamabad court attack that had killed 11 people including a judge and five lawyers.
A young woman lawyer, who had completed high education in Britain and returned to the country a few weeks ago to begin her law career in Pakistan, was among the victims of the court attack.
Another less known group, "Ansar-ul-Mujahideen," also claimed responsibility for some attacks during the Taliban ceasefire, including the killing this week of two police officers, who were escorting a polio vaccination team in Dera Ismail Khan district.
This is a new Taliban splinter group formed by hard-liners in North Waziristan tribal region. Correspondents in the region say that the group's members are mostly from the Taliban faction led by Hafiz Gul Bahadar, who had a peace deal with the army, but the hard-liners parted ways and formed"Ansar-ul-Mujahideen."
The new group carried out several attacks in North Waziristan, the most recent ones of which were made last month. The attacks prompted the government to conduct massive airstrikes in Waziristan.
The group has not disclosed the name of its leader but only its spokesman, Abu Baseer, who routinely claimed responsibility for attacks on security forces in North Waziristan and some parts of the northwest.
The mushrooming of new militant groups in Pakistan in recent months has raised concerns and is seen as a new challenge for the country which has already suffered a lot due to the violent extremism.
Attacks by these groups now pose serious threat to the ongoing dialogue process which will enter a decisive phase in the coming days.
As the government is set to enter into face-to-face talks shortly with the Taliban, the main Taliban group "Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan" will have to investigate as to who within the ranks of the Taliban are bent to sabotage the peace dialogue.
Prime Minister Sharif and his key security advisers have made it clear that the current dialogue process is the last chance for the Taliban and the government to make peace so that the country can finally move forward.