Imran Khan accuses U.S. of derailing peace talks with Pakistan Taliban

BANI GALA, Pakistan Fri Nov 8, 2013 1:41pm EST

1 of 7. Imran Khan, Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician and chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) political party, speaks during an interview with Reuters at his office in Islamabad November 8, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mian Khursheed

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BANI GALA, Pakistan (Reuters) - Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan accused the United States on Friday of deliberately destroying any chance of meaningful peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban by killing the insurgency's leader in a drone strike a week ago.

The Taliban have since rejected talks with the government and threatened a wave of revenge attacks for the death of their chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, on November 1.

Khan, a popular opposition politician in the South Asian nation, told Reuters in an interview that the United States had scuppered negotiations at a time when the militants seemed to have become more open to them.

"If there was a chance of peace talks, we should have grabbed it," he said at his sprawling estate outside Islamabad ringed by hills and neatly maintained lawns.

"The Americans basically could have taken out Hakimullah whenever they wanted. I think the timing was to sabotage the peace process.

"The Americans think that if there is fighting going on here ...in our tribal belt, there is less chance of insurgents going over to the other side (Afghanistan) to fight the Americans at a time when they are withdrawing."

Washington has long put pressure on Pakistan to do more to tackle the insurgency but the new government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, elected in May, wants to find a negotiated solution to years of violence.

Attacks against the army and civilians, however, have been on the rise since Sharif came to power, causing concern in a region already nervous about the planned withdrawal of U.S.-led troops from Afghanistan in 2014.

Earlier this week U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry suggested the drone attack was justifiable, while at the time saying Washington was sensitive to Pakistani concerns.

Mehsud had been tentatively open to ceasefire talks with the government, but new Taliban leader Mullah Fazlullah, whose men were behind the attack on schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai last year, strongly opposes negotiations.

"SLAVES OF AMERICA"

Khan, who became a celebrity in Pakistan and the West in the 1980s as a dashing young cricketer, is now an influential politician and a fierce opponent of U.S. drone strikes.

He said missiles fired by unmanned U.S. aircraft in North Waziristan, a mountainous region where most militants are based, have only fuelled anti-American sentiment.

He agrees with Sharif on the need for peace talks with the Pakistan Taliban, an al Qaeda-linked group fighting to topple the government.

Khan, whose political party is now in charge of the volatile Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province bordering Afghanistan, has threatened to cut NATO supply lines through his region from November 20 if U.S. drone strikes do not end.

Blocking NATO trucks at KP border checkpoints could disrupt the operations of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan but any decision to close supply routes through Pakistan would have to come from the central government in Islamabad.

"They (the Taliban) think ... we are the slaves of America, that the Pakistan government is taking money from the U.S. and fighting its (America's) war and killing its own people," Khan said.

"Therefore they have declared jihad (holy war) against the Pakistan army and Pakistani security forces. The dialogue should (take place) to take that narrative away."

Despite Sharif's emphasis on talks, no meaningful negotiations have taken place since his election and Fazlullah's rise could signal the start of a new period of uncertainty and violence in the unstable region.

The Taliban want to oust the government and impose Islamist rule in the nuclear-armed nation. Opponents of talks, including many in Pakistan's all-powerful army, believe the insurgency can only be defeated by force.

But Khan disagrees: "We are bogged down in guerrilla warfare just as the British were bogged down for 80 years, in Waziristan, in the tribal areas, and they never succeeded," he said in reference to British military failures in the 19th century.

"We are not going to succeed because they (Taliban) are masters of guerrilla warfare."

(Writing by Maria Golovnina; editing by Barry Moody)

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Comments (3)
IslamBlows wrote:
Maybe your sewer-pit of a country should have lived up to its’ end of the bargain by fighting the Taliban while you had US aid payments.

Now you’re going to keep fighting them anyway.

Good for you.
Have fun.

Nov 08, 2013 1:39pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ThatsAllShe wrote:
The Wrath of Khan?

Nov 08, 2013 2:58pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Arnleif wrote:
@IslamBlows

First of all.

Do not ever talk, ever again, of helping anyone by using US military force, your statement “your sewer-pit of a country”, actually reveals allot of what US “interests” and altitude are in the region.

Second.

The “Taliban” is a part of the Pakistan population as well as of the Afghan, they are mainly Pashtun. The border drawn by the imperial nations of Britain and France to divide the region after their own interests, cut the Pashtun people in two, something the Pashtun them self never accepted.

Third.

The US fascists choose to wage war on poor people in Afghanistan, who had nothing. They waged a war on a people assuming that the usual way of corrupting other governments would toss Pakistan into a bloody civil war. Further degenerating these countries, and making them easier to control. That did not happen the way the US wanted to. That is why Pakistan did not fighting the Taliban the way the US wanted them to.

Fourth.

Disregarding a fact as irrelevant. The fact that the Pashtun people felt abused by the US using them as cannon food sent against the Soviet, so the US could achieve their goals in the region. The US goal is supporting new, and continuing to support old totalitarian leaders.

Bizarrely according to US rhetoric to prevent Soviet totalitarian leaders from getting their share of the loot. Bizarrely now to prevent “Islamic rule”, which is a common thing among US allies, but not allowed those who stands in the way of US policy.

By refusing to acknowledge that US interest in the region is the regions recourses, not to care for it`s people. You make an sad excuse for your nations imperial policy, in which you fail to understand is the fundamental reason for 911. Instead you choose to support a policy that that uses 911 as a pretext and excuse to continue the same policy the US have had in the region since WW2.

Fifth.

People in the region are trying to organize and challenge the corruption the US generates through “aid”. That is what people like Imran Khan try to do. The US will hopefully be kicked out of the region like it was in Latin America.

Strangely as the US was forced out of Latin America by democratic organizing and electing “anti US” leaders, simultaneously as US “aid” was diminishing, and US military was banned. Human rights, and living standards skyrocketed.

Nov 08, 2013 6:56pm EST  --  Report as abuse
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