NIGHTWATCH: Pakistan, Taliban, Peace Talks

08 Wild Cards, Cultural Intelligence, Peace Intelligence
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Pakistan: Security. Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud told the press in a recent interview that he is open to “serious talks” with the government, but says he has not yet been approached. Mehsud said: “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.”

Mehsud said he would guarantee the security of any government negotiators.

Comment: The interview with Mehsud apparently occurred before Prime Minister Sharif's recent formal overture to the Pakistani Taliban. He is the senior most Pakistani Taliban leader to comment on talks, but even he cannot ensure compliance by all the anti-government militant groups and tribal factions. Nevertheless, it is a positive statement and good news for Sharif.

Politics. The Supreme Court on Wednesday accepted a bail plea from former President Musharraf in connection with the murder of Akbar Bugti, which Musharraf is accused of ordering. The Court found there was insufficient evidence to hold Musharraf without bail.

Comment: Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was a nationalist leader of the Baluch tribe who advocated increased autonomy for Baluchistan and a fairer distribution of proceeds from extractive industries in Baluchistan. He was killed in an explosion in a cave, where he had taken refuge, on 26 August 2006 during a military crackdown ordered by Musharraf who was president and army chief at the time.

Musharraf is also involved in two other cases before the Supreme Court, namely the Benazir Bhutto murder case and the Judges Detention Case. He had been granted bail in both cases.

The Court denied a bail request in the Bugti case on 27 September, but a key witness against Musharraf failed to show up to show up to give testimony today.

This looks like a political fix that will let Musharraf leave his villa near Islamabad where he has been under supervised house arrest for more than six months. Facing charges for capital offenses, he is not likely to stay in Pakistan.

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