In a bid to mend deepening differences within their ranks, five major Pakistani Taliban groups have agreed to sit on a table on the directives of Taliban’s Supreme Leader, Mullah Omer, Taliban and intelligence sources say.
A five-member high-powered Shura (consultative council) has been formed comprising representatives from Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella of various Taliban groups operating on Pakistani soil, Wali-ur-Rehman group, a splinter faction of the TTP, Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, based in North Waziristan, Mullah Nazir group, based in Wana, the capital of South Waziristan, and the powerful Haqqani network, based in North Waziristan, to arrange and monitor the mediation process, sources said.
Of these groups, the TTP, and Wali-ur-Rehman group have been engaged in brazen attacks on Pakistani security forces for being an ally to the United States in its so-called war on terror, whereas the remaining three groups have unofficially struck peace agreements with the Pakistani army.
Halting attacks of Pakistani forces
The Shura council, known as Shura-e-Mubarkah, sources claim, has been set up after weeks-long negotiations between the emissaries of respective groups at an unknown location in South Waziristan. Maulvi Noor Saeed, Maulana Azmatullah, Hafiz Ameer Hamza, Maulvi Sardar Hayat, and Maulvi Saeedullah will represent TTP, commander Wali-ur-Rehman, Maulvi Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, and Haqqani network respectively in the Shura.
“Mullah Omer has personally intervened to sort out differences between these groups so that they could concentrate on Afghanistan”, a senior intelligence official told “Islam Online” on the condition of anonymity.
“He has also asked the (local) Taliban groups to halt attacks on Pakistani security forces”, the official said.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, a veteran expert on Afghan and tribal affairs, too confirms the formation of a five-member Shura, saying that Mullah Omer’s desire to unite all Pakistani Taliban groups at a one-point agenda is not new.
“It’s been his long-time desire to unite Pakistani Taliban groups and persuade them to wage a joint struggle against foreign forces in Afghanistan instead of Pakistan”, Yusufzai told “Islam Online”.
However, Ihsanullah Khan, a TTP spokesman denies that all Taliban groups have agreed to halt attacks on Pakistani security forces.
Talking to the media from an unknown location, Ihsan said that the meeting decided that attacks on Americans and their allies will continue in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
He said that a five-member Shura has been set up to regroup all the Taliban factions, and to investigate killings on spying charges and excesses, if committed, by Taliban against local people as well.
Sources say that Mullah Omer has taken a strong exception also to the growing incidents of killings on spying charges, and kidnapping for ransom.
“All Mujahiddin, local and foreigners, are informed that they should desist from killing and kidnapping for ransom innocent people and cooperate with this committee in curbing crimes. If any Mujahid is found involved in unjustified killing, crimes and other illegal activities, he will be punished as per Shari’ah law”, a pamphlet distributed in South and North Waziristan on Saturday, December 31, 2011 read.
US media quoting a militant who attended the meeting claims that senior Al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya Al Libbi also attended the meeting and asked the Taliban to provide fighters for “Jihad” against foreign forces in Afghanistan.
Defense and security analysts think that the reunion of all Taliban groups may increase problems for allied forces in war-hacked Afghanistan. However, the mending of differences between Taliban groups will not be an easy task.
“It is premature to say whether or not Mullah Omer’s mediation would yield any results, because differences between Taliban groups have gone too deep”, Yusufzai opined.
“There has been much bloodshed due to armed clashes between these groups, which has brought situation at a point where things have become too difficult to settle”, he maintained.
In reply to a question of why Mullah Omer seeks more “Mujahiddin” for Afghanistan when he is negotiating with the United States, Yusufzai did not give importance to the development, including the opening of a Taliban office in Qatar.
“Mullah Omer knows very well that opening of a political office does not mean a lot. This is just a beginning, he remarked.
Yusufzai says that there has been pressure on Mullah Omer from the families of scores of Taliban leaders inside Afghanistan and abroad, including Guantanamo Bay, and he wants their release.
“Taliban too claims to have been holding up an American soldier. It seems to me if they want a Palestinian Hamas-like accord for the release of their leaders”, he opined.
“The two sides have not so far opened their cards. Therefore, negotiations at this stage mean nothing. That’s why he (Omer) wants to continue pressurizing the foreign forces”, he said.
“But, apart from swap of prisoners, I don’t think that Taliban will accept other US demands, particularly maintaining its bases in Afghanistan even after the pullout”, he contended.