London: Pakistan`s Interior Minister Rehman Malik has challenged the Taliban to prove that their top leaders—Baitullah Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud—are still alive.
"If Baitullah Mehsud is alive, or Hakimullah is alive, why don`t they bring out a video. Every telephone has a camera on it. They can just get one out and show people that they are alive. I challenge them," BBC quoted Malik, as saying.
Malik said that Pakistan’s enemy no 1 had died in a US missile strike on Wednesday, while his close aide Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a shootout that broke out on Friday between potential successors.
“The day before yesterday, there was credible information coming from inside the area that Baitullah Mehsud had been killed. This credible information had come right from sources based in South Waziristan, and particularly in Ladha,” he said, adding that officials had non-physical evidence to prove that Baitullah was dead.
Malik said Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, the other leader allegedly involved in the shootout, had long been hostile towards each other.
"They had been fighting in the past and we have information that there has been enmity between Waliur and Hakimullah since they were fighting together in Kurram valley," he said. "Hakimullah was replaced by Baitullah Mehsud with Waliur."
The militant group`s spokesmen were also unable to offer any physical evidence to disprove the government`s claims.
The Taliban has accused the Interior Ministry of making up the incident, but Malik denied such claims.
"Obviously, it is not a story made up by us. This fight must have happened because of the succession," he added.
On Saturday morning, however, Hakimullah Mehsud told the BBC by telephone that reports of his and Mehsud`s death were "ridiculous".
"The news regarding our respected chief is propaganda by our enemies. We know what our enemies want to achieve - it`s the joint policy of the ISI (Pakistani intelligence service) and FBI - they want our chief to come out in the open so they can achieve their target,” he said.
He said the Pakistani leader had decided to adopt the tactics of Osama bin Laden and stay silent. He said he would issue a message in the next few days.