ISLAMABAD: The Shura-e-Muraqaba, an anti-US war council consisting of five key al-Qaeda-linked Pakistan and Afghan Taliban groups based in Fata of Pakistan, is falling apart in the wake of the November 29 failed attempt by a suicide bomber to kill Mullah Nazir, aknown Taliban leader from South Waziristan.
Well-informed tribal sources say following preliminary investigations conducted by the Ahmedzai Wazir tribesmen into the last week’s suicide attempt on Maulvi Nazir, it has transpired that the human bomb was dispatched to the Wana headquarter of South Waziristan by Hakeemullah Mehsud, the chief operational commander of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.
The bomber was sent to avenge the July 5, 2012 killing of Wali Muhammad Yargulkhel, a close associate of Hakeemullah who was also the younger brother of Nek Muhammad Yargulkhel, a Jihadi commander of South Waziristan who had unleashed Talibanisation in Pakistan before being killed in the first-ever US drone attack in the country way back on June 17, 2004 in Wana. Nek was a pioneer of militancy and armed resistance against the state and had made headlines in the wake of the infamous Shakai agreement with the Pakistan Army, which was signed by the former corps commander, Peshawar, Lt Gen Safdar Hussain, on April 24, 2004.
The TTP had threatened to target the Maulvi Nazir group to avenge the murder of Wali Muhammad despite the fact that Hakeemullah and Nazir groups were key members of the five-member Shura-e-Muraqaba, which was formally launched on January 2, 2012 upon the advice of Mullah Mohammad Omar, the fugitive Ameer of the Afghan Taliban, after several years of infighting. Three remaining components of the Shura included the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Haqqani militant .network led by commander Sirajuddin Haqqani and Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the leader of a Taliban faction based in North Waziristan.
TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan had subsequently made public the formation of the Shura through a press release, saying that all the Mujahideen groups had reposed their confidence in Mullah Muhammad Omar’s leadership and recognised him as the leader of Afghanistan. He added that the unity among the militants came after a call by Mullah Mohammad Omar, telling the Pakistani militants to stop fighting at home in order to join the battle to liberate Afghanistan from the occupation forces. Ehsanullah said that the TTP would send its fighters to Afghanistan after March for waging Jihad against “the US-led infidel forces”.
Terrorism experts had maintained at that time that Mullah Omar’s move to unite all the Taliban groups on a single platform was meant to reorient the direction of their battle away from Pakistan and towards the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. But Mullah Omar’s men had to work hard to convince Maulvi Nazir and Hakeemullah Mehsud to forget their differences and join hands to form the Shura-e-Muraqaba. It may be recalled that Nazir’s 2007 decision to expel thousands of Uzbek and Mehsud militants from Wana in South Waziristan had caused a serious rift among various Taliban groups. Nazir had in fact signed a peace deal with the Pakistani military authorities during the operation Rah-e-Nijat.
The then TTP Ameer commander Baitullah Mehsud had bitterly criticised Maulvi Nazir who was adamant to separate himself from the Mehsud majority in the TTP on the subject of letting the Uzbek warriors operate out of South Waziristan. Nazir has long resented the presence of Uzbek militants belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
On the other hand, Baitullah Mehsud had friendly ties with the IMU chief, Tahir Yuldashev. Maulvi Nazir had justified his anti-IMU stance while citing the March 2007 killing of his close aide, Sheikh Asadullah, a Saudi national who was the successor to Ahmed Saeed Abdur Rehman Khaddar al Canadi, an Egyptian-born Canadian known as a financial administrator for al Qaeda [who was killed near Angor Adda in October 2004]. Sheikh was killed by Uzbek fighters.
Besides siding with the Pakistan Army in the anti-IMU operation in 2007, Maulvi Nazir had also forced commander Nek Mohammad’s brother, Wali Muhammad, as well as his diehard loyalists, into exile. Reacting, Baitullah Mehsud, shortly before being killed in a drone strike in August 2008, had sent a suicide bomber who had attempted to kill Nazir but failed.
The Shura-e-Muraqaba was brokered by Mullah Omar’s men while keeping in view this bloody background, with the prime aim of defusing the situation and putting to rest all such intra-Taliban differences. Shortly after the launching of the Taliban alliance, Wali Muhammad had returned to South Waziristan, after negotiation with Nazir.
However, a few months later, Wali was shot dead by unidentified men along with his bodyguard Bakhmal Darikhel at the Kaloosha village in Azam Warsak area of South Waziristan on July 5, 2012. The TTP had suspicions that the killing was ordered by Maulvi Nazir because of the rising influence of Wali in the Wana area. On the other hand, Maulvi’s group had blamed the TTP for bringing the Uzbek militants back to the area, saying Wali Muhammad was protecting them. Tensions kept on growing between the two Taliban groups following Wali Mohammad’s murder till November 29, 2012 when Maulvi Nazir was targeted by a suicide bomber in the Wana area.
A couple of days after the failed attack, Maulvi Nazir ordered all the Mehsud tribesmen living in Wana to vacate the area by December 5 or face retribution. Nazir’s close aides believe that the suicide bomber was sent by the TTP which has a large presence in Wana, although the area had been a no-go zone for the TTP before the formation of the Shura-e-Muraqaba.
The suicide attack and Maulvi Nazir’s ultimatum have revived an old enmity between the Ahmedzai Wazir and Mehsud tribes, besides exposing the ongoing rift among different Taliban groups operating in South Waziristan. Resultantly, two key components of the Shura-e-Muraqaba are once again at each other’s throats, threatening the very existence of the anti-US Taliban alliance.