WASHINGTON: Pressure from Pakhtun tribesmen has forced the Pakistani Taliban to seek a negotiated settlement of their war with the Pakistani military, says a Washington Post report published on Friday.
The report describes Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan as a “fractured and cash-strapped”, group which is losing support of local tribesmen frustrated by a protracted war..
TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud recently offered to start peace talks with the government, raising the prospect of a negotiated end to Pakistan’s war against insurgents.
After interviewing analysts, Fata residents and militant experts, the Post concluded that Mehsud heads a narrow network of insurgents who often have links to criminal gangs and have only limited influence in a vast tribal region.
The report calls TTP a collection of “scores of insurgent groups led by commanders with disparate agendas and varying loyalties”.
But the Post warns that Mehsud’s offer to talk peace may be “an attempt to regain stature, silence critics and gain concessions from a weak government heading into nationwide elections”.
The report points out that some of Mehsud’s most powerful commanders have broken away and set up their own fiefdoms in other parts of the tribal area.
Besides thousands of Pakistani Taliban and local tribesmen, Mehsud also has a large number of foreign fighters, including Uzbeks and other Central Asians.
The foreigners are “mostly disliked by local residents” who also have started voicing their frustration with the war which has forced thousands of tribesmen from their homes. Many people in Fata see Mehsud’s Taliban as killers and criminals.
“The TTP in North Waziristan is looking for talks because it is losing the support of the local people,” an Islamabad-based think-tank, Fata Research Centre, told the Post.
“They are weak, there is infighting,” FRC director Mansour Mehsud said. They used to have the support of most people but not anymore,” said Mansour Mehsud. “People used to think that they would bring justice based on the holy Quran but instead fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.”
He said the Pakistani Taliban also were running out of money and that extortion and kidnappings had become one of their biggest sources of income.
A wealthy trader living on the edge of the tribal area, who was afraid of giving his name because he feared retribution, told the Post the Taliban swindled thousands of dollars from him. He said he was threatened, his family was terrorized and then a bomb exploded at his home, seriously wounding his niece.
Commenting on the TTP’s peace offer, the Post notes that “in brazen disregard for Pakistani law, the video in which they offered peace talks featured convicted killer Adnan Rashid, who escaped from death row during a jailbreak by the Taliban last year,” the report points out.