Taliban still open to 'serious talks', waiting for govt steps
10 October, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud on Wednesday said he was still open to peace talks, but that the government has not taken any serious steps to start a dialogue.
Mehsud, who has a $5 million US government bounty on his head, said he would continue to target the United States and its allies and reiterated the demand that any ceasefire in Pakistan must include an end to US drone strikes. "We believe in serious talks and we are ready to sit down for them, but the government has not taken any serious steps," Mehsud said in a rare video interview with the BBC at an undisclosed location in the tribal areas. "The government has not formally made any contact," he said.
"There is a set procedure for talks, that if one is ready for talks with the other side then they sit with each other and discuss the matters." The main political parties last month backed a government proposal to seek negotiations with the militants, who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the state since 2007. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) responded with a list of preconditions, including a government ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops from the tribal areas.
But ongoing violence, including a recent wave of bombings in Peshawar that killed more than 140 people within a week, has prompted many to question the proposed negotiations. Mehsud told the BBC he was not behind the recent deadly attacks. "Secret agencies are involved in the recent blasts in public places. It is a conspiracy to defame the Taliban and to stop public support," he said.
"We have targeted infidels, the friends of America and those who follow the system of the infidels... and will target them in future." He also reiterated comments made by a group spokesman last week that the TTP was ready for a ceasefire in Pakistan, but only if the US ended its drone strikes in the country.