PESHAWAR - The Taliban have ruled out talks with the Pakistan government, saying chances of negotiations after the killing of their leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike were “below zero”.

Senior TTP leader, Ihsanullah Ihsan, in an interview to Newsweek Pakistan, claimed Mehsud’s killing last week was a violation of Pashtun culture. “After this incident, there can be no peace talks. It would be too generous to say that the possibility of peace talks is zero; the chances are, in fact, below zero,” he said.

“You can’t engage someone in peace talks while attacking his home and killing his father. Hakimullah Mehsud was our leader, our hearts are heavy and our anger will soon be felt by everyone,” he said.

Ihsan described Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s criticism of the drone strike that killed Mehsud as shedding crocodile tears. He claimed the “ruse of peace talks" had been used to eliminate Taliban leaders one by one.  “This is their strategy; they distract us from our security priorities through offers of talks and then eliminate our leaders. We will not allow this to persist,” he said.  When asked about the interior minister’s indignation over the drone strike, Ihsan said Khan was expressing guilt over his government’s involvement in a wrong act.

# “But his government should have been more positive and proactive from the start. When they are so incompetent that they can’t defend their own country and can’t defend their initiative for peace talks, do they even deserve to govern? They are American slaves,” he alleged.

When asked if he was suggesting the Pakistan government was involved in the drone attacks, Ihsan said he was “110 per cent” sure the country’s security organisations were involved. “For every drone attack, about 80 percent of the information and ground intelligence is provided by Pakistani security organisations,” he said. “Why is Chaudhry Nisar shedding crocodile tears? He is responsible for the security of Pakistan. It’s his job, not the army’s, to run the system. If the politicians are not in charge, how is it possible to talk with these helpless and incompetent creatures?” he said.

“Our policies aren’t based on personalities. Whether it is Army Chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani or former PM Yousuf Raza Gilani or anyone, we have launched a war against the system and that will continue,” he said.

Answering a question about Jamaat-e-Islami chief Syed Munawar Hasan’s remarks that Mehsud was a martyr, Ihsan said he was thankful to the JI chief and respected his views and feelings.