Talks between the Pakistani government and the Pakistani Taliban, expected to start in Islamabad on Tuesday, received a setback as two key figures intended to represent the armed group have excused themselves from the negotiation table.
On Monday, Imran Khan's party said the former cricketer turned politician would not be part of a five-man delegation that was nominated by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan [TTP] on Saturday.
A statement posted on the Tehreek-e-Insaaf [PTI] party website said: "While PTI appreciates the trust reposed in its Chairman [Imran Khan] the Core Committee concluded the Chairman cannot be a part of the 5-member TTP-named arbitration committee."
The PTI said it reaffirmed its support for Rustam Shah Mohammed, Pakistan's former ambassador to Afghanistan, who is on the government delegation, which also comprises two journalists and a retired army major.
Another figure excusing himself from Tuesday's talks - and from the Taliban team - is Mufti Kifayatullah from the religious party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam - Fazal-ur-Rehman Group (JUI-F).
It will be the first time that teams representing both sides will be meeting in an attempt to end the campaign of violence waged by the Taliban since 2007.
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, which came to power earlier this year, has been pushing for the dialogue process, that could, eventually, halt the recurring suicide bombings and assassinations that happen across the country.
Pakistani media reported on Monday that the JUI-F leadership was unhappy about being excluded from the government delegation and that a tribal jirga, a grand assembly of elders, that had been set up for the Taliban negotiation process had been overlooked, even though it enjoyed broad support from political and religious parties.
The JUI-F and the PTI form the coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa [KPK], a province that has experienced significant levels of Taliban violence, including the high-profile failed assassination of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai.
The absence of Khan and Kifayatullah means that the Taliban-nominated delegation has been reduced to three people from five. The armed group has yet to respond to the snubs. It is not sending any of its own members to the talks, having tasked its committee to act as an intermediary.
The three remaining members of the Taliban committee are the senior imam of Islamabad's Red Mosque, Maulana Abdul Aziz, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, from the religious political party JUI-S, and Professor Ibrahim Khan, from the religious political party Jamat-e-Islami.
The Pakistani prime minister last week announced that he wanted to pursue talks with the TTP, inspite of ongoing attacks, because "terrorism" had to be defeated either by talks or force.
Sharif, in a televised address to the National Assembly last Wednesday, said: "I am sure the whole nation would be behind the government if and when we launch a military operation against the terrorists - but I want to give peace a final chance."
Source: Al Jazeera