PESHAWAR: A video released on Friday, showing Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief , Hakimullah Mehsud sitting with his deputy Waliur Rehman, dispells recent reports of a depeening rift between the two powerful militant commanders.
“There is no divide in TTP. I and Maulvi Waliur Rehman are one, and look, we are sitting together. The propaganda of a rift in Taliban ranks is totally untrue,” says Mehsud pointing to Rehman in the 45-minute Pashto language video, a copy of which has been received by Dawn.com.
According to reports published earlier this month, Pakistani military officials had said that the two top TTP commanders were at loggerheads with each other, with Mehsud having lost operational control of the Pakistani Taliban and the moderate deputy leader Rehman set to take over the reins of the feared militant group.
In the video, Hakimullah sitting besides Rehman, who commands the Mehsud Taliban, also rebuffed the notion that the two were at odds over talks with the Pakistani government, saying that “meaningful and serious dialogue” was always welcome and that the Pakistani Taliban were never opposed to it.
“We are and we have always been open to dialogue…but true talks. The Sararoga peace agreement solemnized by Amir Baitullah Mehsud is an example which was openly breached by the (Pakistani) government many times. Despite repeated requests by Governor Ali Muhammad Jan Orakzai, the rulers on the behest of their US masters violated the agreement and resorted to bloodshed in the tribal areas.”
“But I would say Pakistan has no authority to hold talks. If it dissociates itself from the Americans and gets ready for meaningful and free talks with the Taliban, we are ready to do it any time,” Hakimullah remarked, however adding: “We are though not interested in useless and baseless talks, with control from abroad.”
No question of laying down weapons
Seconding Mehsud’s stance, Rehman said that the idea of the militant outfit laying down weapons was out of the question.
“But yes, we can sit and talk and reach a consensus for ceasefire,” he said. “However, talks should be serious and free of any foreign pressure, which the Pakistani rulers are unable to resist.”
Answering an unseen questioner in the video, Rehman said that there is no concept of local or foreign fighters among the Taliban, adding: “All are mujahideen and are our brothers. The activities carried out recently were purely our own mujahideens and if needed we have foreign fighters who can be used any time.”
The TTP rose to prominence as an anti-state umbrella group of militants following a Pakistan Army raid on the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in 2007, which had been seized by allies of the group.
The video follows three recent major attacks in Peshawar claimed by the group, including rockets and suicide attacks on the airport, the kidnap of 23 paramilitary soldiers, and the killing of a senior leader of the Awami National Party (ANP) leader Bashir Bilour.
Speaking about the assassination of KP senior minister Bashir Bilour, Waliur Rehman said Bilour had played a major role in the war against the Taliban from Swat to Waziristan Agency, and that he was a staunch enemy and “enemies are dealt with in the same manner.”
The top commanders of the TTP also said that their fight was not specifically against the ANP, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), or the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), but against the “system which has enslaved the Pakistani nation”, accusing the political parties of “supporting it on the behest of the US and foreign masters.”
“I would clear one thing: our war is against the infidel ideology and not against individuals or one party. Anyone who would be supportive of this ideology, he would be on our hit list,” he warned.