Shahidullah Shahid, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman, on war and peace.
After the Sept. 22 attack on a church in Peshawar, Nawaz Sharif seemed, at least momentarily, to signal a rethink on the offer of peace talks with your group and others. How do you view the prime minister’s recent remarks?
We have already expressed our reservations. The government does not have the authority to hold dialogue. The authority lies with the Army or with the U.S. If the government can somehow take measures to prove that they have the authority, then we will consider initiating dialogue with them. Nawaz Sharif has proven he has no authority. When he was in Pakistan he was saying one thing, now when he has gone to America he is talking about preconditions for talks. He is talking about laying down arms and accepting the Constitution. If we were willing to lay down arms and accept the Constitution, there would be no need to have any kind of dialogue.
How does Sharif prove to you that he has ‘authority’?
There are three steps required for confidence-building: pull out the Army from the [federally-administered tribal areas], release our prisoners, and end drone attacks.
Sharif spoke at the U.N. General Assembly in New York last night and said he had asked the U.S. to stop drone strikes.
He could have forcibly stopped drone attacks if he had any authority. These attacks cannot be stopped by making requests. How come attacks are still happening inside his country?
If you don’t have faith in Sharif or his government, who do you trust? Are you looking for guarantors who can ensure that both sides abide by their commitments?
We want the government to take such steps that build our confidence in their ability and sincerity in starting and concluding a dialogue—without anyone else’s involvement.
Are the three preconditions you’ve set out your only demands?
We will present our terms and conditions when we sit down for dialogue. What we have already mentioned are not conditions or preconditions, they are steps the government must take to build confidence and prove they have authority.
Have you provided to the government a list of prisoners you want released?
We have not provided any list, all this is media speculation. There has been no formal meeting of the jirga either.
Do you fear a full-scale military operation in the northwest against your group and allies?
The operation against us has been going on for the last 10 years already. We have become used to it. We even welcome it.
How do you view Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan’s statement that the Taliban should be allowed to open offices?
Imran Khan has no authority. He has his government only in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. If Imran Khan has said this with sincerity, we pray that Allah continue to guide him.