PESHAWAR - A deputy leader of the Taliban, reportedly ousted at the weekend by a militant council, still favours peace talks with the government, he told Reuters Tuesday.

Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, who commands militants of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in the tribal agency of Bajaur near the Afghan border, has reportedly been in talks with the government in Islamabad over a peace deal. The TTP, allied with the Afghan Taliban movement fighting US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan, is entrenched in the unruly areas along the porous frontier. It has pledged to overthrow the Pakistani government after the military started operations against the TTP.

Past peace pacts with the TTP have failed to bring stability, and merely gave the umbrella group time and space to consolidate, launch fresh attacks and impose their version of Islam on segments of the population.

The TTP leadership is split over new talks with the Pakistani government, with some hardliners rejecting them. Mohammad said, however, that he has never disobeyed the council.

“Whenever I’ve held talks with the government of Pakistan, I’ve held them with the permission and advice of the central leadership of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan,” Mohammad said from an undisclosed location.

“When the Taliban in Afghanistan can talk to America, then why can’t we talk to the government of Pakistan?” Pakistan last month urged leaders of the Afghan Taliban movement to enter direct peace negotiations with Kabul, a possible sign that Islamabad is stepping up support for reconciliation in neighbouring Afghanistan.

A council which reportedly included TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, ousted Mohammad, but he said he had “no information on this council, its members, or where its meeting was held.”

“Except for Ehsanullah Ehsan, who contacted the media, no important Taliban leader has contacted me.” Ehsanullah is the spokesman for the TTP and announced the demotion.