Pakistan to Send New Delegation for Talks With Taliban
Pakistan will send a new official delegation including religious scholars to Afghanistan Friday for talks with the Taliban on its stand-off with the United States, Pakistani and Taliban sources said.
"I have no details but [Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar] has given time to meet the delegation," the Taliban's deputy ambassador to Pakistan, Suhail Shaheen told AFP.
Pakistani officials confirmed that a delegation would leave Friday morning for the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.
Although it will include some Islamic scholars, the main pro-Taliban leaders in Pakistan, including Maulana Samiul Haq, will not take part.
Sources said this was because they were unwilling to carry a government message demanding that the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden -- chief suspect in the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
The delegation will include Nizammudin Shamazia, head of one of the largest Islamic seminaries in Karachi and a former tutor of several Taliban leaders.
Pro-Taliban religious groups had been involved in talks with government officials all day but failed to reach agreement on the terms of the delegation's mission, sources close to the discussions said.
Instead they will go ahead with planned demonstrations on Friday to protest over President Pervez Musharraf's support for the United States in the current crisis.
"This is a last-ditch effort to try and find some mutually acceptable solution to the current crisis," one source said, without giving any precise details of what proposals the delegation might carry with them.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has pledged 'unstinted support" for the US-led war on terrorism, but his government is deeply concerned at the prospect of military action against its Taliban allies in Afghanistan.
The Taliban leadership has repeatedly defied US ultimatums to hand over bin Laden, who has been living under Taliban protection in Afghanistan since 1996.
In a sign of Islamabad's growing frustration with the intransigence of its Taliban allies, Interior Minister said the Islamic militia needed to listen to the advice of its "friends."
"The international community is expecting [Pakistan] to play a role and we expect the Taliban to show flexibility in their attitude and approach as we have done a lot for the Afghan people," Haider told AFP in the southern port city of Karachi.
"The Taliban only showed flexibility for one day, when they endorsed the decision of their religious leaders, asking bin Laden to leave Afghanistan."
The Taliban claims that bin Laden has "disappeared," making it impossible to serve him with the edict of Afghanistan's ulema [religious scholars] recommending that he be asked to leave the country voluntarily.
An earlier Pakistani delegation, led by the country's intelligence chief, had met with Omar in Kandahar 10 days ago and delivered a letter from President Musharraf urging the Taliban to "act with prudence because the life of the Afghan people is at stake."
However, the two days of talks failed to achieve any breakthrough.
The announcement of a new delegation came a day after the United States and Pakistan struck a deal on working together to track down bin Laden.
The agreement followed three days of talks between a visiting delegation of US defense officials and their Pakistani military and intelligence counterparts.
The talks were understood to have focused largely on the extent of Pakistan's large intelligence community's knowledge of Afghanistan, the military capabilities of the ruling Taliban and the possible whereabouts of bin Laden -- ISLAMABAD (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)