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Pakistan Army admits it has contacts with Taliban

July 11, 2009 15:22 IST

The Pakistan army has admitted that it is in contact with Afghan Taliban leaders, including Mullah Mohammad Omar, and can bring them to the negotiating table with the US if its concerns with India are addressed.

Pakistan's chief military spokesman Maj Gen Athar Abbas has been quoted by CNN in an interview as saying that the military is still in contact with Taliban commanders like Mullah Omar, Jalalladin Haqqani, Mullah Nazir and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar of the Hizb-e-Islami.

Within hours of CNN airing the report yesterday, the Inter-Services Public Relations issued a denial, saying the remarks attributed to Abbas were "totally baseless, fabricated and unfounded as well as out of context".

"No intelligence organisation in the world shuts its last door on any other organisation. So therefore, the contacts are there. The communication remains," CNN quoted Abbas as saying in the interview.

Abbas said in return for any role as a broker between the US and the Taliban, Pakistan wants concessions from Washington over Islamabad's concerns with long-time rival India, the channel reported.

It claimed that senior US officials had told the channel that President Barack Obama's administration is "willing both to talk to top Taliban leaders and to raise some of Pakistan's concerns with India

Asked if the US can talk to the militant groups in Afghanistan, Abbas said, "There are reconcilable elements...in these Taliban groups...and one has to identify those."

He said there was no harm in opening negotiations with them. In reply to another question on whether Pakistan could provide assistance to a US mission for dialogue, he replied: "I think yes that can be worked out, that's possible."

"The ISI was in the forefront of the whole struggle against the Soviets. Now, by maintaining the contacts with the organisations like (Mullah Omar's Taliban and Hekmatyar) doesn't mean that that state policy is (to be) providing them physical support or the funding or training," Abbas said.

"What we see as a concern is an over-involvement of Indians in Afghanistan that becomes a concern – particularly if one is watching the security calculus in that," he said.

"The fear is, tomorrow what happens if these Americans move out and they are replaced by Indians as military trainers? That becomes a serious concern. So these kind of apprehensions are there, and they are talked about and they are consulted," Abbas said.

He said Pakistan has been informing the US-led coalition countries about its our concerns.

"They have to have a line because if [it] goes beyond them, beyond the line then of course the situation would take an ugly turn," he warned.

After the 9/11 attacks, Pakistani policy to support the militant groups did a "U-turn", he said.

"And the state followed, the army followed, the ISI followed."

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