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'US pressurised Pak to suspend talks with militants'

March 07, 2012 14:44 IST

A rebel commander who was recently removed from the post of deputy chief of the Pakistani Taliban has said that the Pakistan government suspended negotiations with local militants because of pressure from the United States.

Maulvi Faqir Mohammad reiterated his support for peace talks with the Pakistan government though it is believed that his backing for the nascent peace process was the reason for his removal from the top position in the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

"I support peace talks between the Afghan Taliban and the US and also between the Pakistani Taliban and Pakistan government as there is no other option to restore peace in the region," Mohammad was quoted as saying by The News daily.

Mohammad, who spoke to the newspaper on satellite phone from somewhere in Afghanistan, said there was no harm in talking to the government if it is willing to accept the militants' demands for restoring peace in the tribal areas.

He claimed the Pakistan government had almost accepted all his demands for a peace accord in Bajaur tribal region but "US pressure became a major hurdle in the peace talks".

"Our rulers' lust for dollars never gets satiated and that's why they suspended talks with us. We know well that our rulers would be begging for talks with us if the US withdrew its forces from Afghanistan," he claimed.

Mohammad said he had learnt of his removal from the post of deputy chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan from the media. The commander was removed from the position during a meeting of the militant 'shura' or council chaired by TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud on Sunday.

"I have no knowledge about members of the central shura who removed me from my post. I have no idea when and where the shura held its meeting," Mohammad said.

He said he had tried to speak to TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan but was unable to do so. "I don't want to comment on the issue," he added.

Ehsan had announced over the weekend that the Taliban shura had removed Mohammad from his position because there was no longer any need for the post. Ehsan added that Mohammad would be considered a "common fighter" from now on.

A few months ago, Mohammad had informed the media about his talks with the Pakistan government to help restore peace in the tribal areas, particularly in his native Bajaur Agency, where the Pakistan Army launched a major operation in August 2008 to flush out terrorists.

Taliban sources told The News that Mohammad had started negotiations with the government without taking the TTP's leadership into confidence.

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad