Taliban commander talks to Pakistan
By staff and wires
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan is engaged in talks with a senior Taliban commander about a broad-based future government of Afghanistan.
Mullah Jalaluddin Haqqani, commander of Taliban forces in strategic Khost province, is to spend several days in Pakistan for talks with senior officials, a foreign ministry spokesman confirmed Saturday.
Pakistan is anxious to maintain influence in Afghanistan if the Taliban fall.
Last week the Taliban foreign minister traveled secretly across the border to the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, according to the Associated Press news agency.
Pakistan had been the Taliban's strongest supporter until the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
But the main Afghan opposition Northern Alliance, which is fighting the Taliban, opposes Pakistan's involvement in their country.
Taliban foreign minister Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil and commander Haqqani have shown no public sign of breaking with the Taliban's hardline leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Haqqani told a Pakistan newspaper that the Taliban were "eagerly awaiting the American troops" so they can "deal with them in our own way."
But Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan told reporters: "Pakistan is also interested to know the opinion of the Afghan leaders and discuss the prospect of broad-based government.
"It is not Pakistan trying to push for the broad-based government in Afghanistan. The international community has been trying for a long time to promote such government."
Pakistan's reference to the need for a "broad-based, multiethnic government" is a way of saying that the largely Tajik and Uzbek northern movement would never be accepted by the majority Pashtuns, who form the core of the Taliban.
Although Pakistan backs the U.S. anti-terrorism campaign, Khan praised Haqqani as a "well-known commander who fought against the Soviets" and who "had a standing even before the advent of the Taliban."
During the 1979-1989 Soviet war, Haqqani was received at the White House by President Ronald Reagan.
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