August 2009

Daily Times

Thursday, August 27, 2009



We should exploit the Taliban split


The post-Baitullah confusion in the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has cleared up a little with commander Waliur Rehman Mehsud accepting the upper hand of commander Hakimullah Mehsud. This means the TTP is now in the hands of the latter, a Mehsud of South Waziristan. The only “shift” is from the family of the old dead leader to another clan, from the town of Makin to Sararogha.

Confusion and disorganisation are not expected to go away soon. There are matters to be cleared up, especially in regard to the armed manpower and the funds. What has apparently happened is that the commander who had control over a larger territory outside South Waziristan has won the day. That is significant for reasons of outreach, but other elements are important too.

Hakimullah may control the tribal agencies, but he has fewer people under arms than Baitullah had. The question to be resolved next is what happens to the 30,000 men on the payroll of Baitullah who ruled on the basis, not of charisma, of which he had little, but on the ironclad guarantee of payments — both salaries and compensation for “martyrdom”. It is being said that Waliur Rehman will be the vice-chief of Hakimullah and will retain control over South Waziristan.

This arrangement seems untenable. Presumably there is money enough with Waliur Rehman to sustain the large army. But where is that money? If it has been found, has it been agreed that it will cover the increased expenses of Hakimullah as the leader of the TTP? Will he take over the 30,000 who served Baitullah or will he run the TTP with his 8,000? Waliur Rehman presumably has no right to retain the funds meant for an all-Pakistan movement.

How can Pakistan exploit this situation? The initial opinion seems to be divided between those who recommend a forward policy and those who “caution against too much interference in the fiercely independent tribal areas”. If the fear is that going into South Waziristan will trigger some kind of tribal reaction that Pakistan cannot deal with, why not think of moving in areas outside South Waziristan, placing a wedge between Waliur Rehman and Hakimullah?

It is not correct to say that the Pakistan Army has not yet gone into the “fiercely” independent areas. It has gone into Bajaur and Malakand and has achieved remarkable success against elements entrenched there for years. In fact, its ability to strike elsewhere has increased on the basis of the experience gained in these two highly populated regions. Instead of waiting for the Wali-Hakim arrangement to consolidate itself, Pakistan should mount a carefully planned operation.

In the days to come the two Mehsud leaders will have to resolve their contradictions. While they are thus engaged, Pakistan can take in hand the long-awaited operation along a string of “military-strategic” cities — Bannu, Kohat, Hangu, Parachinar — where Hakimullah and his allies have virtually replaced the local administration. In other words, it is the power of Hakimullah, the leader of the TTP, that has to be challenged at this point.

There are two sources of power for the TTP which will seek to prevent it from collapsing: Al Qaeda and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Punjab. In Punjab, the supportive hinterland of the TTP is vast but it cannot afford to have a high-profile leader. Its terrorist and clerical power is many times more than the TTP but its survival depends on unity among the two Mehsud leaders. The clerics of Pakistan will lend a hand to Al Qaeda in the consolidation of the post-Baitullah TTP.

Pakistan is politically unstable as usual but the army can think on more permanent basis. Unless the TTP is defeated and the tribal areas brought under control, democracy in Islamabad is virtually of no use. Democracy needs the writ of the state to function at all. If it doesn’t have that it is the weakest system with which to confront an insurgency of the TTP variety. Therefore the time to take stock of the TTP fissures is now; to evolve a strategy to exploit its current weakness without providing it the pretext to unite again. *




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A ruthless commander succeeds Baitullah Mehsud

Last updated on: August 24, 2009 16:08 IST

Hakimullah Mehsud Hakimullah Mehsud has been appointed as the head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. He succeeded Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed earlier this month during a US drone attack in South Waziristan.

Pakistani intelligence agencies tried their best to create rift amongst the ranks of Taliban [ Images ] over the appointment of a new leader but they did not succeed. Earlier Pakistan interior ministry said that Hakimullah Mehsud and Mufti Waliur Rehman, another contender for the top post, killed each other over the issue of leadership. This was followed by another news that Waliur Rehman has raised objection over the appointment of Hakimullah. On Sunday the ministry revealed that the real Hakimullah is dead while the new leader is his twin brother who looks like him.

All these reports are baseless as Qari Haris, a militant leader from Bajaur agency, told that he was present at the meeting of Taliban Shura (supreme council) at Orakzai agency where Hakimullah Mehsud was appointed unanimously as the new Taliban chief.

Hakimullah Mehsud, in his late twenties belongs to Khatki village in South Waziristan. He is a ruthless commander who belongs to Ashengai sub-clan of the Mehsud tribe and is known for his attacks against government installations across the country.

Hakimullah Mehsud was very close to Baitullah Mehsud and in the past he also worked as the TTP spokesperson. He appeared before the media with the code name of Zulfiqar while his real name is Jamshed and family members call him ‘Jammo’.

Like his predecessor he neither received contemporary education nor did he receive proper religious education but in the field of warfare he is matchless. He joined a madrassa at Shaho village in Hangu district but like Baitullah Mehsud he also left the madrassa without completing his education. Hangu is situated near Kurram and Orakzai agencies, both places known for sectarian violence between Shias and Sunnis — and during his stay in Hangu he developed a strong hatred for Shias. Ideologically he is affiliated with Lashkari Jhangvi, a banned fanatic Sunni outfit, and has good relations with its head Qari Zafar.

After leaving the madrassa at a young age he joined jihadi forces and developed strong ties with the Afghan Taliban. Hakimullah and his cousin Qari Hussain, a trainer and sponsor of suicide bombers, from time to time went to Afghanistan; at first they fought against the Northern Alliance and later on against the US-led NATO forces.

Hakimullah Mehsud always keeps moving from one place to another and he was head of Khyber, Orakzai and Kurram agencies under Baitullah Mehsud’s leadership; this quality earned him the title of ‘mobile Taliban commander’. He has married twice; his first wife belongs to his native village in South Waziristan while recently he married another girl from Mamozai tribe in Orakzai agency.

In Orakzai agency, Hakimullah Mehsud levied jiziya (protection tax) on 35 Sikh families that have been living there for decades. His men arrested Klank Singh and Sewa Singh from Ferozkhel area of the agency and later on during a jirga it was decided that Sikh community would pay Rs 15 million as protection tax per year. He hates all non-Muslims whether the Indian Army [ Images ] in Kashmir [ Images ] or US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan but he always prefers ‘near enemy’ (Pakistani security forces that according to him follow US agenda) over the ‘far enemy’. He was also behind attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team earlier this year.

Baitullah Mehsud was a silent person while the TTP’s new head is a talkative man known for his witty remarks. Baitullah Mehsud always avoided being photographed while Hakimullah loves to give away interviews and likes to be photographed. Once during a press conference at Orakzai agency he surprised reporters by suddenly firing with his Kalashnikov rifles and asked them to take his pictures.

When Baitullah Mehsud replaced then Taliban commander Abdullah Mehsud in 2005, Hakimullah became his strong supporter and always remained with him. Afterward, on his request Baitullah Mehsud appointed him the head of the Taliban at Kurram agency that further fuelled sectarian violence in the area. He also took Waziri Taliban to Kurram agency for fighting against Shias.

When Pakistani Taliban adopted the trend of butchering spies and other security personnel, Hakimullah and his cousin Qari Hussain were first to behead the ‘enemies’. Once the Taliban captured some 16 frontier constabulary personnel out of whom one person belonged to the Shia sect, so Hakimullah butchered him along with a teenager boy and released the video.

Hakimullah Mehsud’s appointed has upset many. Pakistani intelligence agencies tried their best to appoint someone who is not against the Pakistani security forces but they failed. Militant leaders like Mullah Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Sirajuddin Haqqani who enjoy good relations with state agencies are not happy with the appointment of Hakimullah Mehsud but they did not have enough support inside the Taliban Shura to influence the decision.

Rasool Dawar, a resident of North Waziristan agency who met Waliur Rehman Mehsud on Saturday, told, “According to Waliur Rehman there is no difference between him and Hakimullah Mehsud over the issue of leadership and what the Shura decides would be acceptable to all.”

A big challenge for Hakimullah is to develop friendly atmosphere with militant’s leaders in his neighbourhood like Mullah Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Hakimullah is known for his aggression against Pakistani security forces while the other commanders are against such activities. He will have to keep in confidence Waliur Rehman, the head of TTP South Waziristan chapter, who has good influence in the area.

Hakimullah Mehsud appointment would fuel suicide attacks throughout Pakistan’s urban areas. During Baitullah’s time he said that suicide bombers would hit twice a week in the urban areas of Pakistan. He is one of the militant commanders who support the idea that the terror networks should be shifted from rural to urban areas and now he will be in a position to execute the idea. At the same time, due to his LJ background, his men would also carry out attacks against the Imambaras and other gathering points of Shias. For this purpose he has already trained a number of Punjabi Taliban in South Waziristan. They have returned to their homes and are just waiting for Hakimullah’s call.

Image: Pakistan Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud (left) with his arm around Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud during a news conference in South Waziristan in May 24, 2008.

Photograph: Reuters.

Tahir Ali in Islamabad 



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13 hostages freed in Kurram

By our correspondent

PARACHINAR: Thirteen hostages were freed through the efforts of local peace jirga in Kurram Agency on Monday. Tribal sources said two tribes had kidnapped 20 persons of each other a few months ago. Seven of them were killed while 13 were still in their custody and were released on Monday at Balishkhel checkpoint after hectic efforts made by the peace jirga.



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Pak militants destroy aid convoys for Shias

Tue, 25 Aug 2009 08:19:40 GMT

As pro-Wahhabi insurgents continue to terrorize Shia Muslims across volatile northwestern Pakistan, three trucks carrying much-needed medical supplies for the beleaguered Shias were attacked and destroyed.

The medical convoy came under militant rocket attack late Monday in Khawar Qillay.

“The trucks were full of medical supplies and first aid equipment –dispatched (by the provincial government of the northwestern frontier province) upon request of the locals”, a Pakistani official, who chose to remain anonymous told Press TV.

Shia Muslims in Pakistan’s Kurram and Hangu agencies have been facing a serious humanitarian crisis since November 2007 when pro-Taliban, Wahhabi militants cut off the areas from the rest of the country, imposing a crippling blockade on the Shia communities in the region.

While human rights groups have repeatedly warned about the dire conditions facing the inhabitants of the besieged areas, the militants continue to hamper efforts to help the Shias, who are in desperate need of basics for survival.

In recent months, dozens of Shias have been killed each day in Parachinar, lower Kurram and Hangu. Some sources claim that over 2,000 members of the Shia community– one-third of Pakistan’s 160 million-strong population- have been killed in the region within the past two years.

A number of Shias maintain that certain rich Arab countries have bankrolled and armed Wahhabi terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda and the pro-Taliban elements, even going so far as to provide them with heavy weaponry.





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Hakimullah appointed new chief of Pak Taliban

22 Aug 2009, 1627 hrs IST, AGENCIES
As authorities asserted that the militants on the country’s soil were in disarray, Pakistani Taliban on Saturday (August 22) announced Hakimullah Mehsud as their new chief, days after reports claimed that he was killed in a duel with a rival claimant.

The announcement of new Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief, who led a campaign to impose the ‘jiziya’ tax on the minority Sikh community, was made by militant commander Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, who just days back had appointed himself as the successor to Baitullah Mehsud.

Though the Taliban declared appointment of a new chief, they stuck to their claim that Baitullah was still alive, but was “seriously ill and hiding”.

Maulvi Faqir said a 42-member ‘shura’ or supreme council selected Hakimullah as the new leader during a meeting held in South Waziristan tribal region.

Along with Hakimullah, Taliban also announced that they had appointed Azam Tariq as the new spokesman for the group, after their mouthpiece Maulvi Omar was nabbed by police in a raid in Bajaur area in Tribal areas in NWFP.

Faqir also claimed Baitullah wanted a new Taliban chief to be appointed in his lifetime.

Pakistani and American officials have said they are certain that Baitullah was killed with his second wife and several guards when a drone fired missiles at his father-in-laws house on August 5.

Recently, Interior Minister Rehman Malik had quoted reports to say infighting had broken out among various Taliban factions in which Hakimullah had been killed.

The new TTP chief Hakimullah hails from powerful Mehsud Pushtun tribe and is a cousin of Baitullah. He is in his late twenties and was a strong contender for the Taliban leadership.

Hakimullah has also served as spokesman for Baitullah and led Taliban militants in the Khyber and Orakzai tribal agencies, where he imposed jiziya on Sikhs, forcing them to flee the area.

He is also the cousin of Qari Hussain, known as trainer of suicide bombers, who is said to be responsible for dozens of attacks across Pakistan.

Hakimullah has good contacts with Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni group that often targets the minority Shia community.

He also has good contacts in Punjab and Sindh and has trained a large number of Punjabi Taliban militants in South Waziristan. He has used the Punjabi militants to carry out suicide attacks outside the tribal belt.

Maulvi Faqir, who spoke to reporters in Peshawar on phone from an undisclosed location, said the Taliban are ready for a dialogue but the Pakistan government has no power to talk to the militants or to maintain peace as “foreign forces” are controlling it.

Taliban leaders from the tribal and settled regions of Pakistan attended the shura meeting, which selected a new chief in view of Baitullah’s illness, he said.

A few days ago, Maulvi Faqir had said that Swat-based Muslim Khan would be the new spokesman but he claimed on Saturday this decision was overturned due to lack of communication facilities in Swat.

Maulvi Faqir said other senior Taliban leaders like Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadar were happy over Hakimullah’s appointment as the new chief.

Hakimullah hails from Kotkey village in Ladha area of South Waziristan. The Pakistan Army destroyed his house in an operation codenamed ‘Zalzala’ in January last year..

He belongs to the Ishangai clan of Ballizai sub-tribe of the Mehsuds, which is the largest Pashtun grouping within Pakistan. Hakimullah has very strong anti-Shia feelings which he has made known to his associates during Taliban meetings.

Those who have met Hakimullah are familiar with this aspect of his personality. His anger against Shias led him to request Baitullah to make him the commander for Kurram Agency, an area with a large population of Shias. Hundreds of Shias from Kurram Agency have died in clashes with Sunnis backed by the Taliban.

Observers said the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan could foment more sectarian unrest under Hakimullahs leadership.






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Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Five shot dead in Kurram

By our correspondent

PARACHINAR: Two Afghans were among five shot dead in two separate incidents in Lower Kurram on Monday. Tribal sources said a passenger van was on its way to the Kakrai village when unidentified gunmen opened fire at the vehicle near the Bagan area, killing three persons on the spot and injuring four others.

The identity of the dead and the injured could not be ascertained immediately, as they were shifted to the Agency Headquarters Hospital, Parachinar. Meanwhile, unidentified militants shot dead two Afghan nationals at Shahidano Dhand. The bodies were handed over to the Afghan officials at a border check-post.




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Pakistan Observer

Monday, August 17, 2009, Sha’aban 25, 1430

Thousands stage rally for road opening

KurramAgency—Thousands tribesmen threatened at a mass protest Rally to start a Long March If Parachinar-Peshawar Road was not opened immediately. They also criticized Judiciary especially CJP Supreme Court of Pakistan for not taking notice.

The rally was held at Parachinar in which thousands of tribesmen of all ages participated and chanting slogans against what they say as step mother by treatment and state terrorism with patriotic people of Parachinar who rendered sacrifices since the creation of Pakistan and also for stability of Pakistan. They said they also sacrificed lives not to allow militants to enter valley of Parachinar Kurram Agency.

Addressing the Rally tribal elders, scholars and representatives of political parties said that from the last three years Parachinar-Peshawar Road is blocked by the militants with the help of elements of establishment by imposing siege & economic blockade on half a million patriotic tribal people of FATA Kurram Agency. But no one is taking this in notice.

They asked the CJP to take notice of the serious matter as the blockade and difficulties of half a million people of FATA Kurram Agency. Elders of Turi & Bangash tribes added that they would launch a long march if the road was not immediately opened.

They said when the price of petrol & sugar rose in the country the CJ takes notice which is appreciated but at the same time people of Parachinar are buying petrol & sugar and other basic commodities on three times the price in Pakistan (e.g Sugar Rs 95/-per k.g while fuel on Rs 100/-per liter) over the past three years. These commodities are brought via Afghanistan due to imposed siege and economic blockade.

The tribal elders requested the media to highlight the issue on print & electronic media. The leaders announced to start a long march from Parachinar to Peshawar if the main Road linking Parachinar to other cities of Pakistan not opened immediately.— NNI




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