Full text: BBC interview with Taliban's Mehsud
Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has told the BBC he is open to "serious talks" with the government and denies carrying out recent deadly attacks in public places. Here is a transcript of the interview with the BBC's Ahmed Wali Mujeeb.
BBC reporter: There have been recent attacks in public places, and the impression created is that the TTP [Pakistani Taliban] is behind these attacks. What do you say about this?
Hakimullah Mehsud: TTP is a faith-based ideological organisation that has Islamic scholars in its fold. Our faith is that all Muslims are brothers. All those who love Islam, and want the imposition of an Islamic system, and proclaim to rid themselves of the infidels, we consider them our brothers. We consider the safety of Muslims, of scholars, of mosques and madrassas as our sacred duty. These explosions in public places are certainly being carried out by secret agencies as part of a conspiracy to pollute the minds of the people about Taliban and to discourage them to co-operate with Taliban. Secondly, those who have faith in infidels are friends of America and follow the system of the infidels. Praise be to God, we have targeted those who are with the infidels, America, and we will continue to target them. But as for explosions which cause damage to the life and property of Muslims, we have denied any link the past, we deny any link today.
BBC: What is your position regarding peace talks with the government, and in what stage are the negotiations now.
Mehsud: We believe in serious talks but the government has taken no steps to approach us. The government needs to sit with us, then we will present our conditions. The proper way to do it is that if the government appoints a formal team, and they sit with us, and we discuss our respective positions, and we agree on some points and disagree on some other points, then you can say that talks are in such-and-such stage.
BBC: When peace talks were being debated, some scholars appealed to the government and the Taliban to announce a ceasefire. What are your views on this appeal?
Mehsud: Praise be to God, we consider scholars as our respected elders. We are many times more willing to abide by their appeal than the government. But for the ceasefire to be credible, it is important that drone strikes are also stopped.
BBC: There are concerns among some quarters that there are several groups within the Taliban movement and if a government team or jirga visits you, their security might be at risk. Will you welcome a government team and ensure its security?
Mehsud: We are Muslims and don't break promises. If a team comes, we can and will guarantee their security.
BBC: There's much debate in the media regarding the Taliban's preconditions for talks. Have you formally laid down any condition?
Mehsud: We will present our conditions before those who come to talks to us. We neither present our conditions nor listen to others' conditions on the media.
BBC: It is thought that in the past some major peace deals have been made between the government and the Taliban but many have not endured. It is said Taliban have been the cause of the failure of those deals. Is this correct?
Mehsud: Praise be to God, we are autonomous in what we do, but you can clearly see that the government of Pakistan bombs innocent tribal people due to pressure of America, to make America happy to earn dollars. They demolish mosques and madrassas, like they did with the Red Mosque and Jamia Hafsa [next-door women's seminary] in Islamabad. Peace deals failed because of the government. Drone strikes conducted by Americans were backed by Pakistan. Then the Americans pressed Pakistan to start ground operations in these areas, and Pakistan complied. So the government is responsible for past failures, and we have evidence of that which we can share if anyone from the government would sit down with us.
BBC: Will the American withdrawal from Afghanistan next year have an impact on your movement?
Mehsud: There will be no impact of the American withdrawal on the TTP, because friendship with America is only one of the two reasons we have to conduct jihad against Pakistan. The other reason is that Pakistan's system is un-Islamic, and we want that it should be replaced with the Islamic system. This demand and this desire will continue even after the American withdrawal.
BBC: There is usually a lot of tension on the India-Pakistan border. If the two countries go to war, which side will you support?
Mehsud: We will stand with the Muslims. We call on both governments and the Muslim people to submit themselves to the Islamic system, which guarantees success in this world as well as in the hereafter. We will stand by the Muslims.