TTP frustrated at ‘defiance’ over ceasefire

Updated 06 Mar 2014

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Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid (c) speaks in an interview at an undisclosed location in Pakistan's tribal areas. —AP Photo/File
Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid (c) speaks in an interview at an undisclosed location in Pakistan's tribal areas. —AP Photo/File

KARACHI: While there are growing demands for a full-scale military operation following the post-ceasefire terrorist attacks, some experts are urging the government to better understand the militant mindset and use that to the state’s advantage.

“Our society is polarised along the superficial ‘only talks’ and ‘only military operation’ lines. What we need to do is understand the thought process of the militants, their differences with each other and use these differences to pit them against each other,” said an official from the security establishment, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Recently a new group calling itself Ahrarul Hind (liberators of India) has surfaced and is claiming to be a splinter of the banned TTP.

It has vowed to continue attacks, particularly in the major cities across Pakistan, having claimed responsibility for the Islamabad court attack. It is headed by Umar Qasmi, a figure unheard of by militant circles in North Waziristan and in the cities.

“TTP leaders have entered the talks process simply seeking to liberate the tribal areas. As if there is no such demand to impose Sharia across the country. They are ignoring mujahideen in the cities,” said Asad Mansoor, spokesman of the newly-formed group.

The Mohmand chapter of the TTP has also been critical of the talks but says it would abide by the decision of its leadership.

“We go with mutual consultation. Our leadership has decided to opt for a month-long ceasefire and we will abide by that despite the fact that we have reservations over the continued killing of our members by the state,” TTP Mohmand’s spokesman Omar Khorasani told Dawn.

Talking to Dawn in a recent meeting in Afghanistan, head of the TTP Mohmand chapter Khalid Khorasani (previously going by the name Umar Khalid Khorasani) said that his group had sufficient representation within the TTP high command and they had agreed to the peace talks.

“Think about it, the man leading TTP’s negotiations committee is Qari Shakeel Ahmed Haqqani who is in fact my deputy. So the allegations that we want to sabotage talks is not true,” he told Dawn.

But behind the scene, the actual thinking bears striking resemblance to that of Ahrarul Hind. “Some of our leaders in Waziristan have a very limited vision. They would simply be content with some concessions over Waziristan.

Our agenda is not simply gaining Waziristan but a global caliphate,” said a senior TTP Mohmand commander who rejected the recently emerging claim of TTP Mohmand running the shadowy Ahrarul Hind.

“We have nothing to do with that group. In fact if you know who they are then tell us,” he said while talking to Dawn on phone.

The claim that they know nothing about this group is hard to digest.

The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) staunchly opposes the talks, fearing that the agreement would most likely include a clause to eject foreign fighters from Pakistan, a move they have no plan to undertake.

Ahmad Marwat’s JundAllah, a group TTP views with suspicion, is also opposed to talks. “If you speak to jihad veterans here, they have hardly heard of this particular faction or the people behind it. We don’t know where they have come from,” said TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.

However at this difficult juncture, the Punjabi Taliban headed by Asmatullah Muavia and Al Qaeda have rallied to TTP’s support.

“We stand with TTP during their negotiations with the government and would continue to do so unless this process takes them towards parliamentary politics or they begin to drift away from the real goals,” an Al Qaeda member close to Ahmed Farooq, the group’s media head in Pakistan, told Dawn.

Sources in North Waziristan have told Dawn that the TTP central leadership is frustrated with some groups for not abiding by the ceasefire.

Perhaps one of the manifestations of this frustration is a number of TTP members contacting this correspondent and some other journalists covering militancy and desperately trying to find out if they have any information on the “miscreants within jihadi groups trying to sabotage talks”.

The central leadership of the TTP has warned of action.

“We have a religious obligation to uphold agreements. Some unknown forces are out to sabotage the process. If we discover that they are mujahideen groups then we would have to take them to task,” asserted Shahidullah Shahid in a statement.