By MUNIR AHMED
ISLAMABAD (AP) — The Pakistani Taliban on Monday ended a monthslong cease-fire with the government in Islamabad, ordering its fighters to resume attacks across the country, where scores of deadly attacks have been blamed on the insurgent group.
In a statement, the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan said it decided to end the 5-month-old cease-fire after Pakistan’s army stepped up operations against them in former northwestern tribal areas and elsewhere in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which borders Afghanistan.
Pakistan and the TTP had agreed to an indefinite cease-fire in May after talks in Afghanistan’s capital.
There was no immediate comment from the government or the military.
The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but are allies of the Afghanistan Taliban, who seized power in Afghanistan more than a year ago as the U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout. The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan emboldened TTP, whose top leaders and fighters are hiding in Afghanistan.
Monday’s announcement was a setback to efforts made by the Afghan Taliban since earlier this year to facilitate a peace agreement aimed at ending the violence. The latest development comes months after the Afghan Taliban started hosting negotiations in the capital Kabul between the TTP and representatives from the Pakistan government and security forces.
It also comes a day before Pakistan’s outgoing army chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa — who had approved the controversial cease-fire with TTP in May — is to retire after completing his six-year extended term.
Bajwa will hand over command of the military to the newly appointed army chief Gen. Asim Munir at a ceremony in the garrison city of Rawalpindi on Tuesday amid tight security because of fears of violence.
Gen. Bajwa during his tenure carried out a series of military operations against TTP before agreeing to the peace talks with the militant, who have waged an insurgency in Pakistan for 14 years. The TTP has been fighting for stricter enforcement of Islamic laws in the country, the release of their members who are in government custody, and a reduction of Pakistan’s military presence in the country’s former tribal regions.
During the talks, Pakistan had asked TTP to disband.
Pakistan also wanted the insurgents to accept its constitution and sever all ties with the Islamic State group, another Sunni militant group with a regional affiliate that is active in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
However, both sides apparently stuck to their positions since the peace talks began.
In a separate statement, the TTP claimed that it targeted a vehicle carrying Pakistani troops in the district of North Waziristan near the Afghan border, causing casualties. There was no confirmation of the attack from the military and the statement did not provide details.
The Pakistani Taliban have for years used Afghanistan’s rugged border regions for hideouts and for staging cross-border attacks into Pakistan.