A leading faction within the Pakistani Taliban split from the main organization on Wednesday, a top commander said, underscoring the difficulty the U.S.-allied Pakistani government faces in negotiating an end to a decade of violence with such groups as they become increasingly fragmented.
The Pakistani Taliban, which is separate from but allied to the Afghan Taliban, is an umbrella organization made up of loosely networked local groups. It has been fighting to overthrow the government and impose its own harsh brand of Islamic law.
The split within the movement was caused by disagreements with its leadership, said Azam Tariq, a key commander of the faction that was earlier reported to have been toeing an independent line over the issue of peace talks with the government. The faction is based in the South Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border, the birthplace of the Taliban.
In a statement, he said the South Waziristan branch had differences with the leadership operating under Taliban chief Mullah Fazlullah.
He alleged that a criminal element had penetrated the Taliban's central command and been involved in extortion, kidnapping for ransom and other such crimes. He also alleged that the Taliban leadership had been serving the interests of foreign spy agencies, which he neither identified nor explained.
A spokesman for the militants' central command was not immediately available for comment.
The government of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has made negotiations with the militants a centerpiece of his policy since he took power last summer.
As negotiations with the government got underway, the Taliban refrained from large-scale attacks, but then called off a 40-day ceasefire declared on March 1. They and splinter groups have launched attacks using roadside bombs and rocket strikes on army camps, raising doubts over the utility of talks with the Taliban.
Supporters of the talks argue that negotiations are the only way forward to end the cycle of violence. Critics say the insurgents have always used such deals to strengthen their ranks, regroup and strike back with more force.
The Associated Press