Pakistan warns Afghan Taliban to 'join peace talks or face consequences'
Islamabad: Embarrassed by Taliban's refusal to join the fledgling peace process with the Afghan government, Pakistan has warned the insurgents to call-off their recently-proclaimed 'spring offensive' or face consequences, a media report said on Monday.
The Taliban earlier this month announced the start of "Operation Omari", named after the late Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar, pledging to launch large-scale offensives to oust the Western-backed Afghan government from power.
Taliban's announcement of their traditional offensive backed by guerrilla attacks has surprised many in Pakistan.
The Express Tribune quoted a Pakistani official as saying that the Taliban move could derail the peace initiative the Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) - involving Pakistan, Afghanistan, China and the US - had launched in December last year.
The QCG's aim was to seek direct talks between the insurgents and the Afghan government.
The official said Pakistan had urged the Taliban all along to shun violence and negotiate.
"That is why we are utterly disappointed by their announcement regarding the spring offensive," he said.
The official said the Taliban leadership has been given a clear message through "intermediaries" that they will have to pay a "heavy price" if they don't join the peace talks.
It is not clear if the latest warning would work as some reports suggest many Taliban leaders have already moved out of Pakistan or planned to return to Afghanistan in an effort to avoid any action.
In July last year, Pakistan persuaded the Taliban to join the first-ever direct talks with Afghan government officials.
However, the contact was suspended due to announcement of Mullah Omar's death last year and subsequent rifts within the group.
In March, Pakistan's Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz in a frank admission in Washington for the first time said that the Taliban leadership was present in Pakistan along with their families.
The Taliban insurgency has gained strength after the withdrawal of international troops at the end of 2014 and the insurgents are stronger than at any point since they were driven from power by US-backed forces in 2001.
Seasons have long shaped violence in Afghanistan with fighting easing off in the winter, when mountain passes get snowed in, and picking up again in the spring and summer.
According to the UN, 600 civilians have died in Afghanistan's war in the first quarter of this year. It has also that 161 children were killed in Afghanistan and branded the figures "appalling".
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