PESHAWAR: There are reports that on Monday members of the Afghan intelligence agency and security forces arrested a senior Pakistani Taliban commander Maulvi Faqir Muhammad in Nangarhar province.
Maulvi Faqir belongs to Bajaur Agency but had taken refuge in Afghanistan’s Kunar province along with several other Pakistani militants after the Pakistani security forces launched a massive military campaign against him and other militants there on August 6, 2008.
The Afghan government is yet to officially confirm his arrest, though senior officials of the Afghan interior ministry as well as members of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) informed journalists in Kabul and Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, that they had arrested Maulvi Faqir.
Some people claiming to be members of the NDS called reporters in Pakistan and told them they arrested Faqir Muhammad along with five other militants. They said Faqir Muhammad was on his way to the Khyber Agency in Pakistan from the Kunar province, when captured on Monday.
The Pakistani Taliban have neither rejected nor confirmed the arrest of their top commander. The Afghan Taliban sources, however, said the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban were though not sure about his arrest by the Afghan forces but were happy about the development.
“He was irrelevant for some time and was no more enjoying his previous status especially after he told the media that he was holding peace talks with the Pakistan government. The Taliban had not even allowed him to participate in the war against Pakistani forces in Batwar area of Bajaur last year,” a senior Pakistani Taliban commander based in Kunar said.
On December 14, 2007 when all the Pakistani militant factions operating in the seven tribal regions, Frontier Regions (FRs) and settled districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa gathered in South Waziristan and formed their joint organisation, the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Baitullah Mehsud was made its central Ameer or head while Faqir Muhammad was nominated its deputy head.
He declared himself as acting chief of the TTP and Muslim Khan as central spokesman for the militant organisation when Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone attack on August 5, 2009 in his father-in-law’s house in South Waziristan.
Senior Pakistani and Afghan Taliban did not believe Afghan security would capture him. They said like a few other senior Pakistani Taliban based in Kunar province, Faqir Muhammad was in the good books of the Afghan security agencies and was often called by the Afghan authorities for meetings there.
“He was not in hiding. Everybody knew that he was living in Chogan area of Sheegal district in Kunar province. He was no longer an effective man and was sidelined by his fellow tribal militants of Bajaur after he told the media he was holding talks with the Pakistan government,” a Pakistani Taliban commander said.
He said Faqir Muhammad had developed serious differences with the TTP leadership and they replaced him with commander Dadullah, who died in a US drone attack on August 25, 2012 in Sheegal Darra of Kunar province. The Taliban later appointed commander Said Muhammad as the leader of the Bajaur Taliban.
The Swat Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah, who has close ties with Faqir Muhammad, recently resolved differences between Maulvi Faqir and Bajaur Taliban militants. If proved true, it would be a big catch of a senior Pakistani Taliban figure on the Afghan soil.