People shout slogans during a protest against a suspected US drone attack in the North Waziristran tribal district, in Multan, Pakistan, 31 August 2013. At least three people were killed on 31 August in a suspected US drone attack in Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, one of seven tribal districts where al-Qaeda-linked militants have safe havens. It was the first attack after US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Islamabad earlier in August and said that the drone strikes in Pakistan could end ‘soon.’ Image Credit: EPA

Miranshah, Pakistan: A spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban on Saturday denied media reports that the government was holding peace talks with the insurgent group.

Pakistani private media and most Urdu and English language dailies on Saturday ran headlines reporting the start of peace talks with the Taliban while some said there had been initial contacts with the militants

Shahidullah Shahid, main spokesman for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said that no contacts had been made between the group and any government official.

“I categorically deny the holding of peace talks on any level between the Taliban and Pakistani government,” Shahid said from an undisclosed location.

“No contacts have even been made between us, nor have we received any offer to initiate peace talks” Shahid added.

Pakistan’s respected English language daily DAWN quoted Information Minister Pervez Rashid as saying the government was in secret talks with the TTP.

“Unofficial talks between the government side and Taliban are in progress,” Rashid told the paper.

Rashid said the government’s main objective was to restore peace and it would do everything possible to achieve that.

“We have to rid the country of the menace of terrorism for which all options would be utilised,” Rashid was quoted as saying.

BBC Urdu, quoting an unnamed senior government official and a Taliban commander, also reported the beginning of peace talks.

“It is complete propaganda, the government must make it public if it has any proof of any such talks,” Shahid said.

The reports of peace talks emerged almost two weeks after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif made an offer to the extremists in his first televised address to the nation since taking office after winning elections in May.

Previous peace deals have rapidly unravelled, and were criticised by the US and at home for allowing militants space to regroup before launching new waves of attacks.

The Taliban last Saturday removed a key commander for welcoming Sharif’s call for dialogue.

Ismatullah Muaweea, the head of the TTP in Punjab province, had said the prime minister had shown maturity.