Islamabad, Feb. 28 (ANI): Refuting Afghan claims that Taliban representatives are willing to hold talks with the Hamid Karzai administration, a former leader of the ultraorthodox Taliban militia has reiterated an oft-repeated statement that they would only talk to the United States.
Syed Muhammad Akbar Agha said the Afghan Taliban have never invited Pakistan or Afghanistan for talks, adding that the Taliban are a reality and they do not feel a need to sit across the table with Pakistan. He, however, said the outfit would hold peace talks only with the US.
Agha added that the Afghan people or government could be taken on board at a later stage, reports The Express Tribune.
Agha made it clear that the Taliban would only negotiate with the US after it built trust by releasing their prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention centre and giving guarantees that no criminal cases would be pursued against them.
Of late, Pakistan released several mid-ranking Taliban cadres at the request of the Afghan High Peace Council as part of its efforts to facilitate the nascent peace process. However, Agha claimed that as an Islamic state, it was Pakistan's obligation to free the Taliban prisoners and that it was an un-Islamic move on Islamabad's part to arrest those "waging a jihad and hand them over to the United States for money".
Nine years ago, Agha was sentenced to 16 years in jail for kidnapping three United Nations workers in Afghanistan. However, he was pardoned by President Karzai in 2009 and subsequently released.
Presently he lives in a mansion in an upscale neighbourhood of the Afghan capital. (ANI)