ISLAMABAD: Rejecting the argument that Mullah Akhtar Mansour was the major hurdle in talks between the Afghan Taliban and Kabul, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the Murree dialogue could not have taken place if he had acted as a spoiler.
Speaking at a lengthy press conference on Tuesday, the interior minister made several observations regarding the drone attack that allegedly killed the leader of the Afghan Taliban inside Pakistani territory.
He said that it was not yet confirmed that the man who had been killed in the drone attack was indeed Mansour.
Condemning the attack as a clear negation of international law, he called it “illegal, uncalled-for and unacceptable”. But while he said that such an action on Pakistani territory could have serious implications for Pak-US relations, he also claimed that no US drones had entered Pakistani airspace.
“An assessment indicated that the drone fired the missile from across the border,” he said.
Questioning the rationale behind Mansour’s killing in Pakistan when he had been under surveillance while he travelled to countries such as Iran, Afghanistan, Dubai and Bahrain, the minister warned against using the entire episode to target Pakistan’s security and intelligence agencies.
It can’t be confirmed if slain man was Afghan Taliban leader; Wali Mohammad’s CNIC was cancelled, but not passport
Referring to talk that Mansour may have been an impediment to the talks, he said that the first round of talks that took place on July 7, 2015, between the Afghan government and Afghan Taliban where representatives of the US, China and the Haqqani network were also present, a decision had been taken to hold a second round of talks on July 31.
However, that proposed round was sabotaged by the leak of a report on Mullah Omar’s death, days before the agreed date for talks, he said.
He rejected the American claim that Pakistan had been notified in advance of the drone strike, saying that Pakistan was informed seven hours after the attack.
About criticism of Pakistan over failure to confirm the death of Mullah Mansour, he said the car that was targeted had been completely destroyed and only two charred bodies had been found.
It was not possible to confirm whether the person who bore the identity of Wali Mohammad was, in fact, Mullah Mansour without employing modern scientific means.
He said a close relative of the Afghan Taliban leader had sought custody of the body to take to Afghanistan and DNA samples had been obtained, which would help solve the mystery.
He said while the vehicle had been destroyed and the bodies completely charred, it was strange that a passport was found in pristine condition nearby, adding that it would be investigated whether the document had been deliberately planted there to give a wrong lead.
The minister revealed that Wali Mohammad’s CNIC had been cancelled last year, along with thousands of others.
However, the Directorate of Immigration and Passports was to be asked to cancel passports issued to aliens on fraudulently issued CNICs, but somehow the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) did not send Wali Mohammad’s name to the directorate.
He said Wali Mohammad had been issued a manual identity card in 2001 and a CNIC in 2002. He had obtained a passport for the first time in 2005 and got it renewed in 2011.
In the same breath, he admitted that there was widespread corruption in sensitive organisations such as Nadra and the directorate of passports, and detailed efforts he had made to rid the department of bad eggs.
The minister also rejected the American logic that it would target threats to it across the globe. “If every country adopts the same policy – of targeting threats to them located in other countries of the world – there would be [chaos],” he said.
Chaudhry Nisar announced that the National Security Council (NSC) would meet in the next few days to hammer out a comprehensive stance over the drone strike.
The NSC would meet following the prime minister’s return to the country, he said, adding that the input of national security agencies and the sentiments of the people of Pakistan would be kept in mind while coming up with a stance on the issue.
Talking about the fate of negotiations with the Taliban, he said that nothing could be said for certain before the dust settled. A new leader of Taliban was to be chosen and it remains to be seen how they react to the killing of Mullah Mansour and what approach they adopted.
Published in Dawn, May 25th, 2016