Reconciliation with Taliban and Al-Qaeda??

Daily Times, Friday, November 18, 2005

Paracha claims US asked him to help it ‘reconcile’ with Qaeda, Taliban
By Iqbal Khattak

PESHAWAR: The United States has asked Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Javed Ibrahim Paracha to facilitate a ‘reconciliation’ with Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Afghanistan.

Paracha, a former MNA from Kohat district, claimed on Thursday that was invited to a meeting with visiting US Undersecretary of State for Public Affairs Karen Hughes and other senior US State Department officials at Serena Hotel in Islamabad on November 14.

“I met Ms Hughes,” he told Daily Times by phone from Kohat. He claimed that the US officials had requested him ‘to help them negotiate a reconciliation with Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders’ in Afghanistan. “We would like you to support the US government on the issue,” he said.

However, the US Embassy spokesman in Islamabad denied Ms Hughes had met Paracha.

“I know she stayed at Serena Hotel, but when I checked her schedule, there was no encounter with any local politician,” Peter Kovach told Daily Times by phone from Islamabad. “Nobody recalls such a meeting with a local politician,” he added.

Paracha said the US diplomats told him that they had met former ISI chiefs Gen Ehsanul Haq and Gen Hamid Gul, who had referred them (US diplomats) to him (Paracha) to start negotiations with the Taliban.

Paracha said he met Peshawar Corps Commander Lt Gen Muhammad Hamid Khan in a follow-up meeting later on Thursday. “I also met the Peshawar corps commander on Thursday, but will not share any details of both meetings at the moment,” he added. Paracha made headlines when he secured the release of hundreds of detained Arabs through the Peshawar High Court after their arrest in late 2001 on terrorism charges.

The federal government accused him of harbouring terrorists, but did not charge him with any offence for his “close association” with Al Qaeda and Taliban elements in Pakistan.

Paracha said US and Pakistani intelligence personnel had met him in the Peshawar High Court on the morning of November 14 and invited him to meet US diplomats in Islamabad. “I drove to Islamabad for the meeting,” he added.

“Besides US officials, former Taliban leaders and Afghan politicians were also present at Serena Hotel and they sought my help to play a role to convince the Taliban to give up terrorist activities and accept the Afghan government’s reconciliation offer,” Paracha said.

The PML-N leader refused to identify the Taliban leaders or Afghan politicians at the meeting.

“The US officials and Afghan leaders asked me to convince the remaining Taliban leaders to cooperate with the US for a stable Afghanistan,” Paracha added.

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