Pakistan today said it was suspending its targeted military air strikes against the Taliban insurgents, a day after a month-long ceasefire announced by the banned group. "After the positive announcement yesterday by the Taliban, the government has decided to suspend the air strikes which were continuing for the past few days," Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in a statement issued here.
The statement said that "the government and armed forces of Pakistan, however, reserve the right for a befitting response to any act of violence (by the Taliban)". The announcement by the government came hours after gunship helicopters carried out strikes in Khyber agency killing at least five terrorists.
In a statement issued last evening, Shahidullah Shahid, spokesman of the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had said, "We announce a month-long ceasefire from today and appeal to all our comrades to respect the decision and refrain from any activity during this period." The ceasefire was welcomed by the government, and Irfan Siddiqui, the head of the state negotiators, told PTI: "We welcome this announcement. This is a happy and positive development. We are hopeful that the dialogue process will move ahead."
He said that the government committee had sought an unconditional ceasefire from the Taliban for the talks, which were suspended due to terrorist acts, to move ahead.
Dialogue between Islamabad and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that began last month was suspended after the militants beheaded 23 Frontier Corps personnel. The military retaliated with a series of targeted air strikes that left more than 100 insurgents dead. Nisar said that since the government took over in June last year, neither formal military operation nor any unjustified activity has been carried out. He said any action carried out during this period was in reaction to the terrorist activities and to stop such activities.
Some 40,000 people have been killed during a nearly decade-long insurgency in Pakistan.