Taliban wants 'serious talks' with Pakistani gov’t

Taliban wants 'serious talks' with Pakistani gov’t
Thu Oct 10, 2013 18:26:23

The leader of the Pakistani Taliban has used a rare television interview to invite representatives of the government to meet on militant controlled territory for "serious talks" about bringing peace to the country.

Hakimullah Mehsud, the long-haired leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), told a BBC journalist he would guarantee the protection of government negotiators in order to start a discreet dialogue rather than trying to negotiate "through the media".

"The proper way to do it is that if the government appoints a formal team, and they sit with us, and we discuss our respective positions," he said during an interview at an undisclosed location in the country's north-west that was quite unlike the carefully staged propaganda videos the militant leader has previously featured in.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif campaigned in this year's election for peace talks to resolve Pakistan's bloody internal conflict but little progress has been made since senior politicians agreed in September to support such a process.

The policy has also been harshly criticized in the media in the wake of a sequence of bloody bomb attacks on civilians.

Although the TTP's spokesman had already signaled the group's willingness to talk, the intervention by the country's most wanted man is likely to further stoke controversy.

It will hearten those who have argued that the TTP is not responsible for some of most horrific terrorist attacks, including the recent bombings of the church and crowded bazaar in the city of Peshawar.

Such attacks on the public were carried about by "spy agencies" Mehsud claimed.

"[The] purpose behind those attacks is to move the masses against Taliban so that public support towards us is stopped," he said.

He complained the government had not yet tried to contact him, highlighting the difficulties of getting talks off the ground.

Imran Khan, the head of a leading opposition party, has called for the TTP to be allowed to set up an office where talks could take place saying the discussions "should not happen in caves".

Mehsud also said neither side should have any publicly announced pre-conditions.

But he made clear that any deal acceptable to the TTP would have to lead to an end to CIA drone strikes in Pakistan's borderlands which have killed scores of people.

Mehsud became leader of the TTP in 2009 which has claimed responsibility for attacks in both Pakistan, Afghanistan and around the world, including a failed bombing of Times Square in New York.


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