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Baitullah Mehsud gets ready to surrender

* Sets aside demand for amnesty to Abdullah Mehsud

By Iqbal Khattak

PESHAWAR: A key local Taliban militant expressed his willingness to surrender to the government after holding talks with tribal elders and clerics at an undisclosed location in South Waziristan Agency, said one of the negotiators on Saturday.

Baitullah Mehsud, a key tribal Taliban commander in the troubled South Waziristan tribal region bordering Afghanistan, expressed readiness to surrender, Brig (r) Qayyum Sher, a member of the peace committee that met the militant, told Daily Times from Tank.

“He (Baitullah) is ready to settle the matter with the government,” said the tribal negotiator. “We met him today and he said he is ready to resolve the matter.” The tribal negotiator said Baitullah did not press his old demand that his comrade Abdullah Mehsud should also be pardoned if he surrenders. “He (Baitullah) will surrender alone,” said Brig Qayyum.

However, the peace committee will discuss modalities for Baitullah’s surrender with the government. “The modalities will now be sorted out with the government. How, when and where he will surrender will be discussed with the military and the political administration,” said Brig Qayyum.

A military source told Daily Times that Baitullah’s surrender would prove a serious setback to Abdullah Mehsud. “That is what we want. But we have to wait for the moment when he (Baitullah) surrenders,” the source said on condition of anonymity. Lt Gen Safdar Hussain exempted Abdullah Mehsud from amnesty after his alleged involvement in two Chinese engineers’ kidnapping in October last year.

Brig Qayyum said Baitullah, who unlike Abdullah Mehsud and Nek Muhammad was not in the media limelight, set no conditions for his surrender and the Peshawar corps commander had already declared amnesty for him if he laid down arms.

Gen Safdar set a January 26 deadline for the two militants to surrender or “face military onslaught” and hoped sanity would prevail upon Baituallah to live peacefully. However, Gen Safdar had refused to pardon Abdullah Mehsud.

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