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Pakistan-TTP peace talks uncertain

November 8, 2013 at 8:02 pm | News Desk

Bilal Panu

Muhammad Bilal Khan

The death of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud in an American drone strike on November 1almost derailed the government’s plan to hold peace talks with Taliban militants. Mehsud was killed along with five senior leaders of the militant group when American drones fired missiles on a compound and their vehicles in North Waziristan tribal region. hakimullah-mehsud

The Taliban leaders came under attack after they held consultations ahead of the proposed peace talks with the government.

Latest reports suggest that nearly 20 Taliban figures, who had gathered at the compound, were killed in the attack.

Pakistani Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan accused the United States of sabotaging the government effort to initiate peace talks. He said a three-member government negotiating team was scheduled to go to Waziristan for “exploratory talks” with the Taliban on November 2. However, the government cancelled the talks due to the strike.

In early June, the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan withdrew its dialogue offer to the government after a U.S. drone killed the group’s deputy chief Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud. He said the peace talks would be postponed as it depended on the new TTP leadership.

Taliban leaders from Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan have so far held the group’s top positions since it was founded in 2007 by Baitullah Mehsud who united all splinter groups in northwestern tribal regions. Hakimullah Mehsud was made the TTP chief in August 2009 after a U.S. drone strike killed Baitullah along with his wife in South Waziristan.

5270f9b137815Expert on tribal affairs Mehmood Shah said that the TTP could split as deputy chief Khan Syed Mehsud alias Sajna has already been tipped as the new leader but other Taliban leaders could push for election of a non-Mehsud as the new TTP chief.

Political analyst Ikram Sehgal said Hakimullah’s death was a serious setback for the proposed peace dialogue, though his killing was seen as a huge blow to the TTP.

Senior political leaders also angrily reacted to Friday’s drone strike when the government and the TPP were set to enter into the long-awaited peace talks aimed at putting an end to the bloodshed.

Imran Khan, leader of the Pakistan Justice Movement, said the U. S. does not want peace process in Pakistan, adding that his government in northwestern Khyber Pakhtukhwa province will block supplies bound for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan after approval of a resolution in the provincial assembly.

Jamiat ulema-e-Islam, a powerful Islamic party, condemned the TTP chief’s killing and held the U.S. responsible for the failure of the peace process.

Hakimullah’s death has also raised serious concern about the Taliban revenge as the group had carried out such attacks in the past. The federal government took extra security measurers shortly after Hakimullah’s death. Hakimullah Mehsud was the third senior Taliban leader killed in U.S. drone strikes this year.

Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud, the TTP deputy chief, was killed in U.S. air raid in North Waziristan on May 29, 2013. Maulvi Nazir, chief of his own faction of the Taliban, was killed in South Waziristan on January 2, 2013.

Khan Said ‘Sajna’ new TTP chief

A meeting of the Pakistani Taliban’s Shura (Council) on November 2, 2013 named Khan Said Sajna aka Khalid as the next chief of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan militant organisation a day after a US drone strike killed its former leader Hakimullah Mehsud in North Waziristan.

Most of the members of the council were present in the meeting which was held at an undisclosed location though all members could not attend it. Out of 60 members attending the Shura, 43 members voted in favor of ‘Sajna’ whereas 17 others voted against him, militant sources told Economic Affairs, who added that Said’s election was not confirmed by splinter groups of the militant organisation.  drones

Said, who is 36, is believed to be involved in the attack on a Naval base in Karachi and is also credited with masterminding a 2012 jailbreak in which the Taliban freed 400 inmates in the northwestern city of Bannu.

“Sajna has no basic education, conventional or religious, but he is battle-hardened and has experience of fighting in Afghanistan,” an official had said earlier.

The council was considering four names for the post which included Khan Said, Umar Khalid Khurasani, Mullah Fazlullah and Ghalib Mehsud.

Pakistan wants dialogue process to continue

Pakistan’s Federal Information Minister Pervez Rasheed has said that the Pakistan strongly condemns US drone attacks, adding that the government still wants the process of peace talks with the Taliban to continue.

Presenting government’s stance over the US drone assault that killed Hakimullah Mehsud, Rasheed said that the government does not want any hindrance in the dialogue process with the insurgents.

The minister further stated that the government would take steps against those elements who want to obstruct the negotiation process.

The government is facing troubles soon after start of the dialogue process, he admitted.  131102225425-robertson-drone-fallout-00010827-story-body

US closely following Pakistan’s talks with TTP

The United States was closely following reported talks between the Pakistani government and the TTP but would let Islamabad define those negotiations, the State Department said on November 1.

“We are, of course, following it closely as you would expect … but this is an internal matter for Pakistan,” the department’s spokesperson Jen Psaki told a briefing in Washington.

The official reminded the media that this was not a dialogue and discussion that the US would be involved in. “We will see how things proceed (as) … we have a shared interest with Pakistan to end violence and bring peace and prosperity to the entire region,” she said.

Ms Psaki said the United States was interested in “the talks, their scope and the outcome” but would refrain from defining them for Pakistan.

She acknowledged that the United States was encouraging talks between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban as it believed that there’s no military solution to the dispute.

News Desk

Economic Affairs Editor

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