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SIPDIS

NOFORN SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 25X1-HUMAN TAGS: PTER, PGOV, KISL, PK SUBJECT: FATA: PAKISTANI TALIBAN THREATEN JUI-F INTERESTS

ISLAMABAD 00012391  001.2 OF 003

Classified By: Derived from DSCG 05-01, d

1. (S/NF) Summary:  Senior officials from the Islamist Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazlur Rehman (JUI-F) report increasing concern over the influence and activities of Pakistani Taliban sympathizers in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), border areas of Balochistan, and certain districts in the North West Frontier Province (NWFP).  This is in contrast with the tactical alliance that still exists between some JUI-F members and Afghan Taliban in Quetta.  Pakistani Taliban sympathizers are increasingly challenging JUI-F (and their sympathetic Deobandi clerics) for religious, political and, in some cases, administrative control of conservative border districts.  Officials contend that Pakistani Taliban sympathizers have been angered by JUI-F's failure to stem military and law enforcement actions against them and by its willingness to cooperate politically with the GOP.  In some cases, JUI-F officials, their family members, and Deobandi clerics have been directly threatened with violence from Pakistani Taliban sympathizers.  JUI-F asserted that they had been placed on the “front line” in the fight against Taliban extremism and that their party offered the only viable alternative to conservative Pashtun tribal elements.  They sought USG support in pressing the GOP to cooperate more fully with JUI-F and Deobandi clerics in seeking a negotiated end to the current stalemate in the Waziristans as a first step towards countering this trend.  Information in this report is based on private conversations with reliable Embassy contacts at senior levels of the JUI-F, who remain extremely concerned about their personal safety.  End Summary.

Background

2. (S/NF) JUI-F and the Taliban have a long, often confrontational relationship.  While both draw their political ideology and religious theology from Deobandi roots, their specific interpretation of the tradition have long been at odds.  While these two conservative Islamist movements found common cause in the Afghan jihad (both against the Soviets and the Northern Alliance), JUI-F was often publicly critical of the excesses of its Afghan neighbor and tolerated only a limited political presence of the Taliban in areas of Pakistan under JUI-F influence. Post-9/11 JUI-F pressured the Taliban to hand over al-Qaeda suspects to the United States and failing to win its case, ended formal support to its ideological rival.  With the advent of Operation Enduring Freedom, JUI-F publicly criticized United States' action but privately admitted the Taliban's complicity in its own demise.

Tacit Understanding

3. (S/NF) With the influx of Afghan Taliban and their Pakistani sympathizers across the border, JUI-F struck a tacit understanding designed to protect its political interests in FATA, Balochistan, and NWFP.  According to senior JUI-F officials, JUI-F agreed to press for allowing a non-militarized Taliban/Taliban sympathizer presence in these areas in exchange for Taliban recognition of JUI-F religious and political supremacy.  With the GOP decision to introduce the army into FATA, JUI-F's ability to negotiate effectively between the GOP, the resident tribes, and Pakistani Taliban sympathizers consistently diminished.  At the same time, JUI-F officials claim, the Taliban and their initially small group of sympathizers developed an increasingly strong following, particularly in North and South Waziristan, as the security situation diminished and collateral damage from army and Frontier Corps operations affected the lives of the local populace.  An influx of displaced from the Waziristans into bordering areas of NWFP and Balochistan also ostensibly increased sympathy for the Taliban cause among local populace ISLAMABAD 00012391  002.2 OF 003 in these districts.  Despite this break with Pakistani Taliban sympathizers from FATA, elements of the JUI-F in Quetta still retain close ties with Afghan Taliban.

Threatening JUI-F Interests

4. (S/NF) JUI-F officials claimed that over the last year, the growing pool of Pakistani Taliban sympathizers has clearly articulated its intention to overturn any previous understanding with the JUI-F.  While officials were unable to pinpoint a specific event, one speculated that the JUI-F's decisions not to protest vigorously the appointment of a perceived hard-line Peshawar Corps Commander in late 2005 and Governor in May 2006 were at least in part behind the growing rift.  JUI-F officials claim that Pakistani Taliban sympathizers have made clear to JUI-F officials in NWFP and Balochistan that it will no longer accept JUI-F political and religious domination.  Taliban sympathizers criticize JUI-F's decision to operate within the Pakistani political system, its general rejection of violence, and its coalition government with Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League in Balochistan.  JUI-F officials report that Pakistani Taliban sympathizers feel the party has been inadequately strident in pressing for a negotiated settlement in FATA and blame the party's approach for the deteriorating security situation in North and South Waziristan.

5. (S/NF) According to JUI-F officials, Pakistani Taliban sympathizers are using a combination of pressure tactics and force to exert their influence in North and South Waziristan; the northern Balochistan districts of Zhob, Musakhel, Killa Saifullah, Pishin, and Killa Abdullah; and the NWFP districts of Tank, Dera Ismael Khan, and Bannu -- all areas in which the JUI-F has been politically powerful and religiously dominant.  JUI-F officials corroborate journalists' reports of expanding authority of Pakistani Taliban sympathizers' in North and South Waziristan.  They also point out that many of the so-called pro-government tribal and religious leaders who have been killed were actually JUI-F sympathizers.

6. (S/NF) In Balochistan, JUI-F officials claim that Pakistani Taliban sympathizers have used a combination of threats, intimidation, and outright violence to force local JUI-F politicians and religious leaders from the districts of Zhob and Musakhel.  They also report these sympathizers are periodically occupying government offices in parts of these districts and establishing parallel law and order administrative systems. Threats have also reportedly increased in the neighboring Killa Saifullah, Pishin, and Killa Abdullah districts, and JUI-F fears that outright violence may follow.

7. (S/NF) In NWFP, JUI-F leaders report that a similar pattern has emerged in Bannu, Tank, and Dera Ismael Khan districts -- areas that border the Waziristans and are home to several prominent JUI-F politicians, including leader Fazl-ur-Rehman.  Religious leaders and local JUI-F politicians have been forced from these areas, and alternative Taliban-inspired law and order systems are emerging in some tehsils.  One JUI-F source claimed that Rehman was worried that Taliban sympathizers might back alternative candidates in the upcoming elections and causing him and other JUI-F NWFP leaders to lose their seats.

Casting Blame

8. (S/NF) JUI-F officials claimed that the party was actively pressing the GOP to respond to the threats emanating from Pakistani Taliban sympathizers.  Its leaders attribute their present difficulties to U.S. pressure on the GOP to take an unnecessarily aggressive posture in Waziristan.  JUI-F  continues to believe that a negotiated deal with Taliban sympathizers in these areas is the best way forward and has thrown its full support behind the new NWFP Governor's tribal jirgas.  JUI-F officials also believed that increased GOP law enforcement and administrative action to counter rising threats in the settled areas is essential.  JUI-F wants GOP political support in this regard, arguing that its local officials and clerics offer the only viable alternative to the Taliban in these conservative areas.  Vilifying JUI-F only plays into the Taliban strategy.  In addition, one JUI-F official directly linked increased Taliban activity with its rival Deobandi party, the JUI-S, arguing that while JUI-S leader Sami-ul-Haq has publicly supported the GOP, he and other JUI-S leaders and clerics retain close ties with the Taliban.

Comment

9. (S/NF) JUI-F is clearly engaged in a competition with Pakistan Taliban sympathizers for religious and political domination in FATA, the bordering areas of NWFP, and northern Balochistan.  The party has determined that such sympathizers are antithetical to its political interests and is clearly looking for a formula that will contain their influence without expanding GOP influence in these isolated areas. JUI-F's solution of direct negotiations with Taliban sympathizers is dubious, as GOP negotiations with such groups (as distinct from tribal leaders) were, at least in part, responsible for rising Taliban influence in South Waziristan. While the JUI-F split with Pakistani Taliban emmanating from the FATA seems clear, elements of the party still retain close ties with Afghan Taliban fighters engaged in cross-border infiltration from Quetta, despite JUI-F claims to the contrary.  End Comment. CROCKER?