The statement by Malvi Faqir Mohammad, which appeared timed to exploit tensions between the Pakistan army and the US, will likely stoke further concerns in Washington over Pakistan's reliability as a long-term partner in the fight against extremists. It represented the first time a named Taliban commander has confirmed that the group is negotiating with the Pakistani government. Still, it was unclear whether Mohammad speaks for the entirety of the increasingly factionalized network, especially its leader, Hakimullah Mehsud.
Asked about the alleged negotiations, Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said that his government has followed a policy of "dialogue, deterrence and development" to tackle militants who are based in the lawless, Afghan border region. "That is a continuing process," he told a local television station.
Pakistani officials have earlier stated that they do not talk to militants unless they surrender. Despite pushing for peace talks to end the related insurgency in Afghanistan, Washington is unlikely to support similar efforts to strike a deal in Pakistan. Ties between the two countries have been on a downward trend all year, and were dealt a massive blow by an airstrike by US-led forces in Afghanistan two weeks ago that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. The attack triggered fresh anti-Americanism in the country, including within the army ranks.