Will talk, but call to disarm a joke: Pak Taliban chief
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The head of Pakistan's Taliban said his militia is willing to negotiate with the government but not disarm, a message delivered in a video given to Reuters on Friday.
The release of the 40-minute video follows three high-profile Taliban attacks in the northern city of Peshawar this month: an attack by multiple suicide bombers on the airport, the killing of a senior politician and eight others in a bombing and the kidnap of 22 paramilitary forces on Thursday. The attacks underline the Taliban's ability to strike high-profile, well-protected targets even as the amount of territory it controls has shrunk and its leaders are picked off by US drones.
"We believe in dialogue but it should not be frivolous," Hakimullah Mehsud said. "Asking us to lay down arms is a joke." In the video, Mehsud sits cradling a rifle next to his deputy, Wali ur-Rehman. Military officials say there has been a split between the two men but Mehsud said that was propaganda.
"Wali ur-Rehman is sitting with me here and we will be together until death," said Mehsud, pointing at his companion. Pakistani officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking comment.
The Taliban said in a letter released Thursday that they wanted Pakistan to rewrite its laws and constitution to conform with Islamic law, break its alliance with the US and stop interfering in the war in Afghanistan and focus on India instead.
Mehsud referred to the killing of the senior politician in his speech and said the political party, the largely Pashtun Awami National Party, would continue to be a target along with other politicians. "We are against the democratic system because it is un-Islamic," Mehsud said. "Our war isn't against any party. It is against the non-Islamic system and anyone who supports it."