TEHREEK-i-Taliban Pakistan, which was formed as an umbrella organisation for more than two dozen militant outfits in December 2007, in South Waziristan has since evolved considerably from its roots.
From the very start, Salafi and Arab influence was visible, but initially it was restricted to funding. The slain commander of TTP Baitullah Meshud once admitted in an interview that Arabs and Al Qaeda provided the initial funds for forming the TTP.
No wonder then that within two years of its formation, Arab groups with links with Al Qaeda were given representation in the central council of TTP. Experts say this was the first instance of direct Salafi influence on the decision-making process within TTP.
The Deobandi link was there too – many of its foot soldiers and some of its leaders come from Deobandi madressahs.
But this Deobandi side of the TTP identity got diluted with time especially as banned militant and sectarian organisations which had been shifting their operations from mainland Pakistan to the tribal areas began making inroads into the TPP.
Among these were splinter groups of Laskhar-i-Taiba (a Salafi organisation), ‘rogue’ and radicalised elements of the Jamaat-i-Islami and other militant organisations who now dominate Tehreek-i-Taliban’s decision-making process.
Some sectarian and anti-India militant organisations such as Sipaha-i-Sahaba Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Harkatul Jihad-i-Islami are now part of Pakistan Taliban’s organisational set-up and now take active part in the Taliban-led terrorist attacks on the urban centres and government installations and personnel.
Hence, apart from the TTP head Hakimullah, Hafiz Gul Buhadar and the late Maulvi Nazir (the latter two groups have loose agreements with the Pakistani army) there are at least 10 other groups that have their own strongholds in Fata such as Maulvi Faqir Mohammed of Bajaur who has been expelled from TTP.
These 10 groups include the main leadership of the “Punjabi Taliban” that is based in NW. Asmatullah Muavia is the main leader of the Punjabi Taliban.
Other groups that are perhaps not so high profile but continue to operate from the tribal areas and enjoy influence with the TTP include the Rasheed Ghazi force and Jundullah. These groups are focused on carrying out attacks inside Pakistan.