Pakistani Taliban chief says group is open to talks if Islamabad cuts US ties

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 December, 2012, 4:00am


Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud said his organisation could be open to talks with Islamabad in a video released on Friday, but he poured scorn on the idea his men would give up their guns.

Mehsud, who has a US$5 million US government bounty on his head, said the militant group would consider negotiations with the Pakistani government but only if it abandoned ties with Washington.

The tape emerged after a spate of high-profile attacks claimed by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) around the northwestern city of Peshawar in recent weeks, including the assassination of senior provincial politician Bashir Bilour.

"If Pakistan is serious about negotiations it will have to give up US slavery. We will then be ready for negotiations," Mehsud said in the video. "It is quite ridiculous to ask us to give up arms before entering into negotiations. But if Pakistan decides to open talks while remaining US slaves the talks will not succeed because a slave can never take independent decisions."

He also accused Islamabad of reneging on peace deals in the past under US pressure, but did not elaborate.

Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, gave Mehsud's comments a cautious welcome. "We understand the Taliban's negotiations offer as a positive step," he said, although he said the militants must "quit the path of violence".

Mehsud, who took over the TTP leadership after founder Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike in August 2009, said they had avenged bin Laden's death "several times".

"We consider democracy as un-Islamic," he said. "The aim of our life is the implementation of the Islamic system. We do not support any political party because we consider them un-Islamic."

The video, distributed to media organisations in northwest Pakistan, is undated but also shows Mehsud's deputy Wali-ur Rehman discussing the killing of Bilour on Saturday, which would suggest it was filmed in the past week.