|Gilani has been quoted by a newspaper as saying that Taliban will not be disarmed but only “decomissioned” [Reuters]
The leader of the Haqqani network, a powerful Taliban faction, has denied killing the Afghan government’s peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani.
Sirajuddin Haqqani, in an interview with BBC Pashto, also rejected US allegations that the Haqqanis, blamed for a string of high-profile attacks on Western targets in the Afghan capital, were currently linked to Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI.
“We haven’t killed Burhanuddin Rabbani and this has been said many times by the spokespersons of the Islamic Emirate,” he said, referring to the Taliban.
Afghan officials blamed the Taliban for the September 20 turban bombing that killed Rabbani in Kabul, saying the killer was Pakistani and that it was plotted by the Afghan Taliban’s leadership body, the Quetta Shura, in Pakistan.
Afghan officials say they have shared their investigation with Pakistani authorities and that they will request a UN inquiry into the murder if Islamabad refuses to co-operate.
However, no Afghan officials have specifically accused the Haqqani network over the killing. The network is considered loyal to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar and has a seat on the Taliban leadership council.
The assassination of Rabbani, a former president and chief negotiator of Hamid Karzai, has forced the incumbent Afghan president to review his strategy for talking peace with the Taliban.
Following a meeting with the country’s elders, Karzai declared that he would be seeking talks with Pakistan instead.
“The people of Afghanistan ask me: ‘Mr President, who are you negotiating with? Who is the other side of the peace talks?’I have no answer except to say that my partner – or the other side of the peace talks – is Pakistan,” Karzai said.
Rabbani’s killing has brought forward questions regarding the future of peace talks with the Taliban.
Haqqani’s interview comes amid heightened tension between the United States, Pakistan and Afghansitan.
Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint chiefs of Staff, had called the Haqqani network a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s military intelligence.
The comments did not go down well with Pakistan. Yousuf Reza Gilani, the Pakistani prime minister, convened an all-party conference to discuss the US allegations and draft a strategy on how to move forward in the relationship.
The Afghan government has also pointed fingers at Paksitan, saying their investigations show that Rabbani’s killer was a Pakistani.
Pakistan has asked the Afghan government to stop the blame game.
“Certain forces are at work to destabilise Afghanistan and Karzai should not play in their hands. Instead we should get united to foil their machinations,” Gilani said on Sunday, according to the Paksitani paper, Daily Times.
Gilani added that his government was committed to bringing peace through dialogue with Taliban in the tribal areas. They would not disarm but only “decommission” the Taliban, he said.