While politicians squabble, the TTP gears up

Published January 21, 2014
Some of Pakistan’s politicians appear to believe that the country’s militancy issues would be resolved once the US and its allies exit Afghanistan. But commanders of the officially banned TTP and even the Afghan Taliban are convinced otherwise. — File photo
Some of Pakistan’s politicians appear to believe that the country’s militancy issues would be resolved once the US and its allies exit Afghanistan. But commanders of the officially banned TTP and even the Afghan Taliban are convinced otherwise. — File photo

KUNAR: While Pakistan’s politicians show only indecisiveness over a strategy for dealing with militants, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has quietly been making the most of the situation and is gearing up for what it conceives of as the “long war ahead”.

Some of Pakistan’s politicians appear to believe that the country’s militancy issues would be resolved once the US and its allies exit Afghanistan. But commanders of the officially banned TTP and even the Afghan Taliban are convinced otherwise.

According to them, the withdrawal of US-led troops would merely mark the end of one phase of operations and their “long war” will continue until the establishment of a global caliphate. They make no bones about their desire to extend their expansionist designs into Pakistan, once they are powerful enough.

The TTP has been holding marathon meetings here in Afghanistan as well as Fata, and inducting some known hawks into prominent positions.

Qari Shakeel Ahmed Haqqani, the deputy chief of the banned organisation’s Mohmand chapter, has been appointed the head of the TTP’s political shura.

“He has previously served as the head of the TTP’s grand shura and is known as a person who does not compromise on his principles,” a TTP leader based in North Waziristan told Dawn, adding that some of the earlier commanders had not been as “ambitious” and “decisive” as Haqqani.

This scribe recently met Qari Shakeel Ahmed Haqqani here and questioned him on the chances of a successful dialogue given that the TTP is refusing to halt attacks in Pakistan.

“A ceasefire is a two-way process,” he said. “You expect us to cease attacks when the government is continuing its operations in Fata and in the cities. We want to make it clear that if we are talking about dialogue then it is not from a position of weakness. We are very capable of fighting.”

Dawn spoke to dozens of TTP fighters based in Afghanistan and different parts of Fata; they displayed unanimity in their position on talks.

“Everyone knows that Shariah cannot be implemented through talks,” said Asad Khan, a fighter from the TTP’s Mohmand chapter.

So why bother with considering talks in the first place? This was asked of Ehsanullah Ehsan, former chief spokesman of the TTP and currently serving as a senior member of the political shura.

“We also long for peace and are willing to explore all options if that benefits the people of Pakistan,” he said.

But a member of the TTP’s grand shura acknowledged on the condition of anonymity that the real motives are different.

“Alhamdulillah we have managed to gain many of the benefits that were obtained by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the sulah of Hudaybiah,” he said.

“Some of the benefits gained through the treaty of Hudaybiah included political legitimacy, the time and space to regroup and the opportunity to engage with the public,” explained Mufti Tahir Jami, a Karachi-based religious scholar.

An analysis of the statements coming from TTP (central) and its Mohmand branch suggests internal differences. The TTP Mohmand comes across as trying to sabotage the talks process.

Some, however, believe that this is part of the game. “It seems that the TTP has deliberately created the impression that there is a difference of opinion between different factions, such as the Mohmand group and the centre. I believe this is a ploy — good cop, bad cop,” said Tariq Habib, an investigative journalist who reports on militancy.

“We are willing to hold talks even at this stage but the government is not sincere,” said TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

“The government does not even have the power to take key decisions. We are prepared for a ceasefire but the government must first announce a ceasefire from its side.”

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