ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban say they will not change their decision of withdrawing peace talks offer to the government for now, as they are still mourning the killing of their deputy chief, Waliur Rehman Mehsud in a US drone strike.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) withdrew its dialogue offer to the new government a day after the TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan confirmed on May 30th that Waliur Rehman Mehsud was killed in the US drone strike in North Waziristan tribal region, along with six other militants.
Ehsan had alleged Pakistan’s cooperation with the US in the drone attacks, an allegation he reiterated on Sunday when asked if the TTP is willing to talk to the PML-N government.
When questioned on Sunday if the PML-N government directly or through any mediator contacted the Taliban for talks, Ehsan said that no one has contacted them since the new government has taken over.
Interior Minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said in Quetta on Sunday that the government is ready to pursue its commitment to talk to those militants who want to talk. However he warned that the government will respond with force if the armed groups pursue ‘militancy and terrorism.’
The Taliban say they still standby their previous decision not to talk to the government.
“We are still in the state of shock at the martyrdom of our deputy chief and there is no change in decision of not to talk to the government,” the TTP spokesman told The Express Tribune.
The TTP had previously offered conditional peace talks to the PPP-led ruling coalition for the first time in February this year, however, then government wanted the Taliban to lay down arms first.
The Taliban had attached conditions to their talks offer that included release of their senior negotiators and proposed Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz president Nawaz Sharif, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Jamaat-e-Islami amir Syed Munawar Hasan as guarantor for dialogue. None of the three leaders had agreed to play the mediator role, but had pressed the former PPP government to hold talks with the militants.
Days after the PML-N emerged as the single largest party in the May 11 elections, Nawaz Sharif had stated that he would take the Taliban dialogue offer very seriously. However, there has been no progress so far and the US drone attacks made the possibility complicated.
“We had offered dialogue and wanted to talk to everyone, but the political government has no power and the powerful establishment has never shown seriousness to peace dialogue,” Ehsan said via phone from undisclosed location.
To a question about the logic behind the Taliban decision to withdraw talks offer to the government in reaction to the US attack, he claimed that Taliban believe that “our state institutions are passing on 80 percent information to the Americans for drone attacks.”
To another questioned Ehsan said that the Taliban have appointed a new deputy chief but the name will not be disclosed for some time.