A long-awaited first round of peace talks between the Pakistani government and Taliban insurgents began in Islamabad on Thursday, a government source said, after numerous delays and growing doubt over the chance of their success.

Spy dog

Spy dog

The Afghan Taliban in Kabul have released video footage featuring a dog they claim to have captured spying for U.S. troops during fighting in eastern Afghanistan last December, Pakistan Today reported at its website

The dog was captured during a night raid in eastern Afghanistan in late December. It was wearing a harness with a GPS tracking device, a flashlight and a small camera, militants said.

— CBC News

Pakistani Taliban insurgents have been battling for years to topple the central government and establish strict Islamic rule, but Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif believes the movement is now ready to find a negotiated settlement and stop fighting.

"The progress of the talks will be submitted to the prime minister," the government official, who declined to be named, as he is not authorised to comment on progress of the talks, told Reuters. "They are meeting at an undisclosed location."

Several earlier efforts at engaging the militants in dialogue have failed, only allowing the movement time to regroup, recruit new fighters and strike back with renewed vengeance.

On Tuesday, the first attempt at talking to the Taliban got off to a shambolic start after government negotiators failed to turn up at an agreed time, angering representatives of the insurgents.

Dawn newspaper cited sources as saying that Thursday's meeting was being held in a cordial atmosphere. Negotiators on both sides could not immediately be reached for comment.

Many in Pakistan doubt that talking to an insurgent group that stages almost daily attacks in the country would yield any result.

Militants have stepped up attacks against security forces since the beginning of the year, prompting the army to send fighter jets to bomb their strongholds in the ethnic Pashtun region of North Waziristan, along the Afghan border, and triggering talk that a major ground offensive is in the works.