Pakistan press sceptical about Taliban talks

Three leading Pakistani clerics and members of a committee nominated by the Taliban to conduct talks with the government - Ibrahim Khan, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, and Maulana Abdul Aziz - give a news conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, on 3 February 2014 The Taliban have nominated a committee to represent them at possible talks with the government

Even before news broke that the meeting between the Pakistan government and the Taliban had been delayed, many editorial writers thought that, at best, the road to any agreement would be long and tortuous.

The News - a widely-read centrist English-language daily - says the negotiating committees nominated by both sides do not include "anyone with the authority to make decisions".

"The negotiations may finally be underway but the process promises to be a long and excruciating one," it predicts.

Another English-language paper, The Daily Times, agrees, mocking the government's committee as being composed of technocrats "without experience of skills in negotiating conflict".

"The entire process appears on the face of it to be mired in so much uncertainty that the euphoria over the very fact it may start may prove premature," it adds.

'Balloon'

Some papers think the entire process is doomed to fail, as the gap between the two sides appears unbridgeable.

The Nation, a major conservative English-language daily, says it is unlikely that the Tehreek-e Taliban will agree to respect Pakistan's constitution and halt attacks on civilians and the military.

On the other hand, it adds, the government will find it hard to stomach demands that it release all Taliban prisoners and stop all military operations against the militants.

Security officials collect evidence following a bomb attack at a cinema in the Pakistani city of Peshawar on 2 February 2014. Sunday's bomb attack in a Peshawar cinema shook confidence in the planned talks

"There should be no doubt that this peace talks balloon will burst soon enough. It is only a matter of time that the reality of the situation will become clear," the paper's editorial concludes.

For Nawa-i-Waqt - a conservative Urdu-language daily - matters are even more clear-cut: it believes neither side is serious about talks. The paper suggests an attack on a cinema in the north-western city of Peshawar that killed five people late on Sunday - for which no one has claimed responsibility - is a message from elements within the Taliban who are resolutely opposed to the talks.

"The government too should now return to its actual strategy of eradicating terrorism," the newspaper argues. "A nation under attack from terrorism can no longer believe the government's lip service [to the goal of a negotiated peace] anymore. They need practical steps, otherwise the government will remain tied up in talks and the terrorists will succeed in their aims."

'Opportunity'

However, some are upbeat about the potential of a talks process, such as Pakistan's most widely-read Urdu-language daily, the Daily Jang. It suggests that the planned withdrawal of US-led troops from Afghanistan in 2014 is a chance for the wider region to reduce tension.

"The Pakistani Taleban should not waste this opportunity for peace and tranquillity. It is necessary that the government take the opposition into confidence at every stage to ensure successful talks."

In an editorial on Monday, the conservative pro-Islamist daily Ummat stoutly defended the idea of the talks in principle. It voiced the hope that both the government and the Taliban will show restraint and work to frustrate "all internal and external attempts to sabotage the exercise".

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. For more reports from BBC Monitoring, click here. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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