WANA: Mullah Nazir, the main pro-government Taliban commander in South Waziristan, has ordered the Mehsud tribesmen and Mehsud Taliban fighters to evacuate the Ahmedzai Wazir area of the tribal agency, two days after a failed suicide attack targeting the powerful militant warlord.
The announcement was made following a grand jirga of the Mullah Nazir group, a 120-member 2007 peace committee of the Ahmedzai Wazir clan, the elders of all nine Ahmedzai tribes and their sub-tribes at main Rustam Bazaar market of Wana, the capital of South Waziristan.
Nazir was wounded Thursday when a suicide bomber exploded near his car at Rustam Bazaar, killing at least eight and injuring 17 others.
It was unclear who was behind the attempt on the militant commander’s life, but Nazir has a long list of enemies.
Announcements were made Saturday on loudspeakers in Azam Warsak, Karikort, Wana and Toikhula bazaar by Nazir loyalists, warning Mehsud Taliban fighters to leave their area by Dec 5 or face action. The group also asked all Mehsud tribesmen, who had taken refuge in the area being displaced as a result of an earlier Pakistan Army operation to cleanse the area of anti-government militants.
Nazir, an elder in the Wazir tribe, opposes Uzbek fighters and has had awkward relations with the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) faction, which is dominated by members of the rival Mehsud tribe and lead by Hakeemullah Mehsud.
Tribal affairs and militancy expert Rahimullah Yousufzai warned earlier that Thursday’s suicide attack could spark a new wave of bloodshed in the restive tribal belt.
“It is difficult to say who could be behind the latest attack because Mullah Nazir has problems with Uzbeks, IMU and the TTP,” Yousufzai told news agency AFP. “The enmity with the TTP will rise further if Nazir’s group finds TTP’s involvement in the attack.”
Saturday’s announcements issued on mosque loudspeakers also warned local Ahmedzai Wazir tribesmen of dire consequences if they dared to provide shelter to Mehsuds — either fighters or the IDPs. Any local found guilty of giving shelter to Mehsuds would be fined about Rs 1 to Rs 1.5 million and their houses will also be demolished, said the warning.
Mullah Nazir also heads the 120-member 2007 peace committee of Ahmedzai Wazir tribes, which was assigned the task to evict Uzbek, Tajiks and other foreign fighters including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) militants from the area.
He had carried out an armed campaign against Uzbek and other militant groups in collaboration with the security forces in 2007 to expel anti-government elements from South Waziristan areas dominated by the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe.
Since then the Ahmedzai Wazir area, apparently under the peace committee headed by Nazir, is said to have remained peaceful until Thursday’s suicide attack in Wana.
Mehsud Taliban fighters hailing from the outlawed TTP have also previously been warned by the Mulllah Nazir group not to use their soil for attacks, with tensions mounting over time between the two rival groups.
Although no one has claimed responsibility for the attack on Nazir so far, many believe the TTP might be behind it.
A senior government official on condition of anonymity told Dawn.Com that Mullah Nazir is important for the peace in the Ahmedzai area, otherwise, the security situation would deteriorate.
Nazir and North Waziristan commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, since the 2007 peace pact with Islamabad, are said to confine their militant activities to Afghanistan where they oppose the presence of US and Nato troops.
Saifullah Mahsud, executive director of the Fata Research Centre, a think-tank focused on the tribal belt, said Mullah Nazir and Gul Bahadur are very close to the Haqqani militant network of Afghanistan.