Baitullah Mehsud Speaks...
By Alamgir Bhittani, Dawn, May 25, 2008
KOTKAI (South Waziristan) May 24: Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud on Saturday ruled out the possibility of cooperating with a UN probe into the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, saying the world body was not neutral.
“The United Nations is not a neutral body. It is subservient to the United States. I don’t expect it to conduct an impartial enquiry,” the leader of the Pakistani Taliban said. “We will not work with it.”
Addressing a press conference at the Government High School at Kotkai, the only building intact amid bombed out houses, the short-statured, burly militant commander questioned the UN role in Muslim countries, pointing to the situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestine.
Baitullah denied that he was involved in Ms Bhutto’s assassination.
“Her father and two brothers had also been killed. Do we know who killed them? Politicians have their own rivalries. They know who their enemies are,” he said.
A court in Rawalpindi has implicated Baitullah Mehsud in Benazir’s murder and declared him a proclaimed offender in the case.
The ardous journey took journalists from Bannu to Mirali in North Waziristan and onwards to Kotkai, escorted by heavily armed Taliban.
From North to South Waziristan, security forces were conspicuous by their absence. In South Waziristan, even the personnel of the traditional Khasadar force were nowhere to be seen.
Baitullah vowed to continue the ‘jihad’ against the US and its allies in Afghanistan but said that his fighters constituted just a fraction of an ‘overwhelmingly Afghan Taliban force’. “Ninety-five per cent of them are Afghans”, he said.
When he was asked if the peace agreement would deter cross-border infiltration into Afghanistan, he said: “Islam does not recognise any man-made barriers or boundaries. Jihad in Afghanistan will continue.”
The Taliban leader termed the tapes that purportedly linked him with Ms Bhutto’s murder technical gimmickry. “Science has developed so much that I am sure they (intelligence agencies) can produce the same tape with (President) Musharraf’s voice.”
Inside a classroom, surrounded by more than a hundred heavily armed guards, Baitullah acknowledged that peace talks were under way with the government
But he said that Pakistan government should prove that it was a sovereign state which took its own decisions and was not subservient to the US.
“I am afraid this peace agreement will meet the same fate as that of the previous accords if Pakistan does not prove that it is a sovereign state and takes its own decision.”
Baitullah was referring to the 2005 peace agreement signed in South Waziristan which collapsed in a few months.
He said that the conflict between Pakistani Taliban and the government was ‘harming Islam and Pakistan’. “The sooner it ends the better it will be.”
He described President Musharraf as the ‘root-cause’ of all violence in the country and thought that the situation would straighten out after he stepped down.
Acknowledging his involvement in suicide bombings, he said: “Infidels have nuclear arms which are weapons of mass destruction. We have suicide bombers who are target-oriented.” Baitullah, however, denied the presence of any training camps in his area.
The Taliban commander also denied his involvement in the abduction of Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Tariq Azizuddin. The ambassador, he claimed, had been abducted by another militant group.
“But since the group sympathises with us, they thought it fit to demand the release of our men”, he argued. He insisted that the government had not released any Afghan nationals in exchange for Mr Azizuddin. “The government said that they did not have Maulvi Obaidullah or Mansoor Dadullah in their custody. People who had been released are locals. One of them is my close associate,” he said.
He claimed ‘holding’ between 40 and 50 other government officials.
He said that he was proud that the US had listed him as an enemy. “I am glad they have listed me as their enemy because I fight for the supremacy of Islam, jihad and support the oppressed.”