PESHAWAR, Nov 4: Blaming the Pakistan government for the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in the US drone attack, the Taliban on Sunday announced they would not hold any peace talks with the government and threatened to avenge the killing of their leader.
There were reports about differences among various factions of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) over finding a successor to Hakimullah Mehsud. The Taliban, however, denied that.
“After consultation with all the factions, it has been unanimously decided that we will not hold any peace talks with the government. It’s a puppet government of the US and it deceived us in the name of peace talks,” the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told this correspondent from his Afghan cell phone.
He claimed the TTP leadership knew that the government was not sincere in peace talks but the Taliban leadership decided to hold negotiations for the sake of the Pakistani people.
“We did not want innocent Pakistani people to suffer any more and therefore decided to hold negotiations with the government. But the government, by helping the US in the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, proved that there was zero sincerity in the mind of the rulers. It was neither sincere nor serious in peace negotiations,” a seemingly furious Taliban spokesman noted.
He warned the government would have to pay the price for, what he termed playing a double game with the TTP.
Shahidullah said Hakimullah Mehsud’s killing was a “huge loss” to the Pakistani Taliban, adding they would always feel his absence.“We are passing through a difficult phase and are still in the state of mourning. And that’s the reason we could not sit to choose his successor,” he remarked.
He said the TTP Shura would hold its meeting within the next few days and would choose the next Taliban leader. When told about reports that the Shura had held its meeting in North Waziristan but could not develop consensus over one name, the Taliban spokesman said it was not true.
He said all the Shura members had been informed about the meeting and they would soon gather at a safe place to choose Hakimullah’s successor. For the time being, Shahidullah said the Taliban commander from Jandola in the Frontier Region Tank, Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani, had been appointed as Ameer of the TTP central Shura.
“He is not an acting Ameer of the TTP as reported by the media. He would work as Ameer of the TTP central Shura and would, along with other members of the Shura, oversee affairs of the network till the new Ameer is nominated,” the spokesman explained.
About the announcement of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to stop the Nato supplies through the province, the spokesman said, “It is an encouraging attempt as it would at least cause some damage to our enemy but it will not help restore our trust in the government.”
However, other militant leaders welcomed this decision of the PTI government.“Though we oppose the PTI leadership as it is now a party to the system, we appreciate this decision of stopping the Nato supplies,” a senior militant commander operating in Afghanistan said.
He, however, said they would soon start targeting the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leadership for its alleged support to the US in the region.Meanwhile, Taliban sources said the TTP Shura had started its meeting but after a day-long session, the participants could not reach a consensus on the nomination of the TTP leader.
“The Shura held several sessions on Sunday but they could not convince each other on one name. The meeting has been postponed for three days. It has been decided to invite senior members of the TTP and create a consensus on one name,” one of the Shura members told this correspondent.
Pleading anonymity, he said three names of senior Taliban commanders were presented at the Shura meeting. They were Maulana Fazlullah, Hafiz Saeed Khan and Maulana Gul Zaman.
Maulana Fazlullah is the leader of the Swat Taliban and is presently based in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. Hafiz Saeed Khan is the TTP leader in Orakzai Agency. He belongs to the Orakzai tribe and is a resident of the Mamozai area in the militancy-plagued Orakzai Agency. Among the militant circles, he is known as one of the most hardline and dangerous militant commanders. Besides his native Orakzai Agency, Taliban sources said he had organised dozens of deadly attacks on key installations in major cities of the country, including the US Consulate in Peshawar through four suicide bombers, the Peshawar airport, military checkpoints, mourning processions of the Shia community and worship places of Ahmadis. It is said it was Said Khan who organised a suicide car blast on the tribal jirga in Orakzai Agency on October 10, 2008 and killed over 50 people. He proudly claimed the recent suicide car attack on the compound of Mulla Nabi Hanafi in Orakzai Agency.
Like Maulana Fazlullah, he, too, had two wives and is the father of three children.The third militant commander is Maulana Gul Zaman. He, too, belongs to the Orakzai Agency and is the TTP Ameer in the Khyber Agency.