PESHAWAR: Punjabi Taliban, an influential militant faction of the Pakistani Taliban on Friday said it would abandon insurgent activity inside the country and redirect its energies towards Afghanistan.
The announcement indicates further fragmentation in the umbrella Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which suffered a setback Thursday when a new bloc declared its split from the group's official leadership.
“We will confine our practical jihadist role to Afghanistan in view of deteriorating situation in the region and internal situation of Pakistani jihadist movement,” Punjabi Taliban chief Ismatullah Muawiya said in a pamphlet faxed to the media, without clarifying further.
The faction is active in Punjab, Pakistan's wealthiest and most populous province and the political power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party.
Muawiya said the faction will operate in Afghanistan under the guidance of Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of Afghan Taliban, while its activities in Pakistan will be confined to preaching Islam.
“The announcement is a major setback for the TTP as it shows fragmentation is continuing and the organisation is fracturing,” defence and security analyst Talat Masood told AFP.
“The groups within TTP have not accepted Mullah Fazlullah, which has caused a serious split in the organisation.”
Mullah Fazlullah was elected head of the TTP last November following the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike.
A new bloc, named the TTP Jamatul Ahrar (freedom fighters group), announced its split from the group Thursday and named Omar Khalid Khorasani as its commander.