Talks with Pakistan govt will fail: Top Taliban commander
Islamabad: As Pakistani officials and politicians mull negotiations with the Taliban to end years of insurgency, a senior rebel commander on Friday said the talks will fail as both sides are pursuing opposing objectives.
Omer Khalid Khorasani, the Islamist commander of Mohmand Agency, one of seven lawless tribal districts in the country`s northwest, said in a letter to the media that he was not hopeful about the outcome of peace overtures.
"The current wave in support of the talks is bound to fail as we have come to the conclusion that the government is not serious," said Khorasani.
"The main difference is that we want to change the Constitution (with Shariah or Islamic law) and the army is demanding from us to follow the Constitution," he said.
The Taliban "will not budge an inch from the demand of implementation of Shariah" and if militant commanders deviate from this, "then we will not follow him", he said.
Khorasani said the second biggest hurdle in the way of peace is that the Taliban`s demand for implementing Islamic law is for the entire country and not just the tribal region.
"We will support the mujahideen living in areas other then tribal region. We will not leave them and live and die together," he said.
The letter was issued amidst reports of rifts among Taliban factions circulating in the media. Some of the reports are highly credible and have been confirmed by Taliban sources.
The main Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led by Hakimullah Mehsud has run into differences with the Jundullah group, created in 1970 for activities in Iran. It joined the TTP in 2007 as an independent group after Pakistan provided support to Tehran to launch a crackdown against it.
Sources said Jundullah chief Ahmed Marvan has accused Mehsud of taking unilateral decisions on accepting the government`s offer of peace talks without consulting other groups.
He announced he would continue militancy and his faction was reportedly behind the the suicide attack on a church in Peshawar that killed 84 people.
The matter was referred to the Shura Muraqba, the Taliban`s highest decision-making body, which declared that Marvan was right. This dealt a serious blow to Mehsud`s prestige and power.
Khorasani is one of central TTP leaders but he is seemingly unhappy with the way Mehsud is running affairs. He has been using former TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan, who is also from Mohmand, to issue statements and letters.
For the government, the real issue is picking a reliable partner for peace, which seems an uphill task, according to a senior official of the Interior Ministry.
"We have prepared a list of militant organisations, which includes 62 groups involved in violence in the country. It is quite complex and difficult to select one group and leave the others," said the official, who did not want to be named.
Political parties too are divided as former President Asif Ali Zardari, who heads the Pakistan People`s Party, has warned of the perils of showing leniency towards militants.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who has been pushing for talks with the militants, is disillusioned because of the relentless violence since he took power despite offering an olive branch to the Taliban.
But former cricketer Imran Khan, whose party rules the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, is adamant about the talks.
On the top of all this confusion, there are reports that the powerful Pakistan Army is not happy with the government`s peace policy.
After Maj Gen Sanaullah Khan Niazi was killed in a roadside bombing this month, army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said he would "spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators of these cowardly acts of terrorism to justice".
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