Pakistan Taliban's deputy Mohammad admits peace talks

Pakistani paramilitary soldier in a tribal area in Pakistan, bordering Afghanistan, where the authorities are battling the Pakistan Taliban (Archive photo 2009)
Image caption The army has failed to curtail the activities of the Pakistan Taliban

The Pakistan Taliban is in peace talks with the country's government, the group's deputy commander has said.

Maulvi Faqir Mohammad said the focus was on the Bajaur tribal area bordering Afghanistan, and that if successful, talks could be extended to other areas.

He said 145 Taliban prisoners had been freed as a goodwill gesture and the authorities wanted a ceasefire.

It is the first time a top Taliban commander has confirmed negotiations. There has been no government comment.

"Our talks are going in the right direction," Reuters news agency quotes Mr Mohammad as saying.

The BBC's Orla Guerin in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, says that in the past such negotiations have backfired allowing the militants time to re-group.

There are also doubts about whether or not any possible peace treaty would be observed by all of the factions in the Pakistan Taliban, which is an increasingly fractured alliance, she says.

In October, Pakistan's Interior Minister Rehman Malik said talks would only be held if the group disarmed.

The Pakistani army has conducted a series of offensives against strongholds of the Pakistani Taliban, or Tehrik-e-Taliban, along the mountainous border with Afghanistan.

But it has failed to curtail the activities of the group, which has ties to al-Qaeda.

Militants in Pakistan have carried out a series of devastating suicide bombings and other attacks across the country since 2007 in an attempt to overthrow the US-backed government.