PESHAWAR: Leader of the Pakistani Taliban Hakimullah Mehsud on Friday said he was willing to hold peace talks with the Pakistan government but would never lay down arms till the implementation of Shariah in the country.
The offer for holding peace talks with the government came in a 40-minute videotape, which the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) delivered to media outlets.
The TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told The News that the main purpose of releasing the videotape was to explain their position about certain issues, particularly about media reports regarding the peace talks between them and government and differences within their network over the leadership.
“In the video, we wanted to dispel the impression about differences between the TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud and his deputy Maulana Waliur Rehman. Maulana Waliur Rehman is the TTP leader for South Waziristan region and is sitting in the videotape with Hakimullah. I am also sitting in the video,” Ihsanullah explained.
He said they had not given any offer about the ceasefire, but could seriously think about it if the Pakistani rulers accepted their conditions.
“The government will have to quit its alliance with the US and it is required to come out of its war in Afghanistan. It will have to rewrite the country’s Constitution according to Shariah in place of the present secular system and also apologise for the war launched against us in the country.”
In the videotape, Hakimullah said, “Maulana Waliur Rehman is sitting with me here. We will stay together till our death.”
He said they (Taliban) believed in meaningful dialogue and would be willing to hold negotiations with the Pakistan government if it was serious in talks.
The TTP chief said they had signed peace accords with the government in the past in different areas. He complained it was the government that violated and broke all such agreements.
“Pakistan is a slave of the US and cannot sign a peace accord independently. It broke all the previous peace accords with us,” he alleged.
Hakimullah said their war was not against a particular political party or group, saying “anyone becoming a hurdle in our way in the implementation of Shariah would continue to remain our target.”
He said they were against the democratic system and its supporters, and would continue to fight till a “purely Islamic rule is installed in the country.”
The TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan said they did not know about the proposal given earlier by one of their senior commanders, Asmatullah Muawiya, to the government about ceasefire. However, he endorsed the statement in case the government is serious in holding talks.
He said the Urdu-speaking Asmatullah Muawiya is the TTP leader in Punjab and he wrote the letter to a Pakistani journalist in response to his article but some people thought it was a ceasefire offer from the Pakistani Taliban.
“We do not accept Pakistan’s present secular and pro-West system of government and its constitution. We also oppose Pakistan’s pro-West foreign policy. If the government wanted us to announce a ceasefire, it will have to accept all our conditions,” Ihsanullah said.
He said they had rejected an offer given by the Awami National Party (ANP) leader Asfandyar Wali Khan asking the militants to lay down their arms in home and hold peace talks with the government.
“Who is Asfandyar Wali to ask us to lay down arms in home? He should know that we picked up arms to implement Islamic Shariah in the country and we would not put them down until a purely Islamic rule is set up in the country,” the TTP spokesman said.
Reuters adds: Hakimullah said the Taliban believe in dialogue but it should not be frivolous. “Asking us to lay down arms is a joke.”
The TTP chief referred to the assassination of ANP senior leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour in his speech and said the party would continue to be a target along with other politicians.
“We are against the democratic system because it is un-Islamic,” he said. “Our war isn’t against any party. It is against the non-Islamic system and anyone who supports it.”
Hakimullah said that the Pakistani Taliban would follow the lead of the Afghan Taliban when it came to forming policy after most Nato troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014.
“We are Afghan Taliban and Afghan Taliban are us,” he said. “We are with them and al-Qaeda. We are even willing to get our heads cut off for al-Qaeda.”