Asia

Hakimullah Mehsud: Pakistan cabinet to discuss US ties

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Media captionHas Mehsud's killing ended Pakistan's chance for peace?

Pakistan's cabinet is set to discuss ties with the US and review security following the killing in a drone strike of Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.

Pakistan reacted angrily, accusing the US of violating its sovereignty and sabotaging rudimentary peace efforts.

Mehsud was killed on Friday at a compound in the tribal region of North Waziristan near the Afghan border. The Taliban are discussing his replacement.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said the timing of his killing was "unsuitable".

Mr Karzai told a visiting US Congress delegation on Monday that the attack "took place at an unsuitable time but he hoped as a result the peace process is not harmed".

On Saturday, Pakistan's Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan said that the strike on Mehsud was "not just the killing of one person, it's the death of all peace efforts".

Taliban replacement

Although a government delegation was set to visit North Waziristan to discuss possible peace talks, correspondents say that dialogue about peace was embryonic and the Taliban was known to be divided over the matter. Previous "peace" deals have failed.

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Media captionPakistan Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan: "The Americans have a lot to learn"

In a rare interview with the BBC weeks before his killing, Hakimullah Mehsud laid down his conditions for peace - including the introduction of a harsh and controversial version of Islamic law in Pakistan.

Among the candidates named by local media as a potential replacement for Mehsud is Khan Said Sajna, a regional commander said to be open to the idea of peace talks.

But other candidates such as the hard-line Mullah Fazlullah, whose men shot and almost killed the schoolgirl and campaigner Malala Yousafzai and who is currently based in northern Afghanistan, were also said to be in the frame.

BBC correspondents say the Pakistan Taliban are a loose and at times fractious group, and reaching an agreement on a new leader will test the ability of the senior commanders to work together.

Image caption The security situation in Pakistan is on the agenda for Monday's cabinet meeting

For the moment the Taliban have said there will be no further peace talks as they say they have been "deceived" by the government.

US bounty

Relations with the US will be high on the agenda as the cabinet meets on Monday. Both houses of parliament are also set to convene and the drone strike is likely to dominate debate.

The regional Khyber Pakhhtunkhwa assembly is also due to discuss the killing of Mehsud.

"Every aspect of Pakistan's co-operation and relations with Washington will be reviewed following the situation created after Mehsud's killing," Interior Minister Chaudry Nisar Ali Khan said.

Pakistan summoned the US ambassador over the weekend to protest over the drone strike.

But the US state department said talks with the Taliban were "an internal matter" for Pakistan and referred to Mehsud's alleged role in attacks on US citizens.

The US had a bounty of $5m on Mehsud's head. The state department described him as the head of the group which planned the failed bombing of Times Square in 2010 and said the Pakistani Taliban have a "symbiotic" relationship with al-Qaeda.

The strike came just a week after Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif met US President Barack Obama for wide-ranging talks in which they pledged to strengthen ties between the nations, recently strained by the issue of drone strikes.

As well as Mehsud, the previous Pakistan Taliban leader was killed in a drone strike in 2009.