Peshwar: A Pakistani Taliban spokesman on Sunday denied an earlier announcement by the militant group's deputy chief that it was holding peace talks with the government.
   
The conflicting claims are a clear sign of splits within the movement, which could make it harder for Islamabad to strike a deal to end the violent insurgency gripping the country. At the same time, the cracks could make it easier to suppress the insurgency militarily.
   
Pakistan's conflict with its branch of the Taliban is closely linked to the American-led war in neighboring Afghanistan. Past informal cease-fires have made it easier for Afghan militants sheltered by their Pakistani counterparts to attack US forces across the border making potential peace talks between Islamabad and the Pakistani Taliban a possible cause of concern in Washington.
   
From Islamabad's perspective, rising anger against the US increases the incentive to cut a deal with the Pakistani Taliban, as many blame the conflict on their government's alliance with Washington.
   
However, the government's ability to negotiate with the clandestine militant movement will be made vastly more complicated by the Taliban's murky command structure, and the difficulty in telling whether commanders who say they are willing to make peace actually have any authority on the ground.
   
Maulvi Faqir Mohammed, who has been recognised by both militants and officials as the deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban, said on Saturday that the group was in negotiations with the government.
   
Mohammed, the first named commander to confirm talks, said an agreement to end the country's brutal four-year insurgency was within striking distance.

(Agencies)