ISLAMABAD: The November 29 failed attempt by a suicide bomber to kill a prominent Taliban leader from South Waziristan, Mullah Nazir, , was either masterminded by the Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP), or by the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU)—the two militant groups which employ human bombs and which have been at odds with him since long.
Mullah Nazir is considered to be a “good Taliban” by the Pakistan security establishment but is regarded as a “bad Taliban” by the American security establishment.A teen-aged suicide bomber drove a motorcycle packed with explosives into Nazir’s car on Thursday as it was parked in the main bazaar in Wana, South Waziristan.
Maulvi Nazir was out of the car and making a phone call when the deadly attack took place. Seven people were killed and 12 wounded in the suicide attack, which has not yet been claimed by any of the militant groups, with the TTP and the IMU being the prime suspects.
According to well-informed tribal sources in South Waziristan, Maulvi Nazir has some serious differences with TTP leadership, ostensibly for his refusal to become a part of the jehadi conglomerate.
He is probably the only high-flying warlord from the Waziristan region who has maintained his separate identity for several years now by not joining hands with TTP. As far as his animosity with the IMU is concerned, Nazir had expelled, with the backing of Pakistan Army, hundreds of Uzbeks militants from his tribal areas in 2007 and 2008.
The move had led to small-scale fighting between the groups.The 36-year old jehadi commander is in fact a dual citizen of Pakistan and Afghanistan who comes from the Kakakhel tribe, a sub-clan of the Ahmedzai Waziris that dominate parts of South Waziristan. Currently operating from South Waziristan, Nazir frequently travels to Afghanistan’s Paktika and Kandahar provinces where he owns property.
His extended family lives on both sides of the Durand Line.The Pakistani establishment considers Nazir to be good Taliban as he does not have a particularly anti-government agenda or openly seek the ouster of the Pakistani state.
His first jehadi association was with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami, which was backed by the ISI during the days of the anti-Soviet war.
Nazir later joined Taliban movement in Afghanistan and remained politically aligned with the Jamiat-Ulema-Islam (JUI-F), led by Maulana Fazlur Rahman. But he moved back to South Waziristan when the Taliban lost their ground to US-led coalition forces in November 2001. By 2003, Nazir had made his way onto Pakistan’s most-wanted list of jehadis-turned-terrorists.
He finally surrendered to Pakistani authorities in 2004, only to be declared clean and clear after interrogations. As soon as he was released, Nazir signed a peace deal with Commander Nek Mohammad, a powerful Taliban commander from South Waziristan who was later killed in a US drone attack in 2004.
Nazir had re-emerged in the spotlight in November 2006, when a high-powered Taliban jirga crossed over from Afghanistan and met with the Waziri tribal leaders to select a new Taliban leader for South Waziristan after local elders complained that the Taliban fighters had precipitated tension between the Taliban and the locals as a result of target killings and unbecoming behaviour.
The jirga had subsequently appointed Nazir the ameer of the Taliban’s Wazir faction in South Waziristan besides establishing two executive councils which Nazir would have to consult before executing any policy decisions.
By the spring of 2007, Nazir gained control of most of the western part of South Waziristan, including its administrative headquarters of Wana, where he imposed a brutal form of Shariah law, reportedly with the tacit acquiescence of the Pakistani government.
Under his system of governance, he established Islamic courts, and a six-member committee (chaired by none other than Nazir himself), to settle local disputes in accordance with Shariah.
After establishing some degree of control in a matter of months, he challenged immigrant Uzbek militants operating under Tahir Yuldashev of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) which led to an ensuing bloody battle in 2007-2008.
The Uzbeks lost around 200 people in the clash in which the Pakistani army provided medical cover to Nazir’s forces and helped him secure the bases vacated by the Uzbeks.
In the summer of 2009, Pakistan Army signed a peace agreement with Nazir stipulating that he would not shelter al-Qaeda or members of the Taliban in Pakistan.
The Pakistani government launched a military operation against TTP in October 2009, but left Nazir’s areas untouched. And he has continued to allow the TTP, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist groups safe haven in his tribal areas.
Nazir is accused of running terror training camps, providing safe houses for al-Qaeda fighters and conducting cross-border ambushes against the coalition forces.
But he has not been entirely alone in these endeavours. On February 25, 2009, Nazir and three Pakistani and Afghan Taliban leaders—Sirajuddin Haqqani of Haqqani Network, Baitullah Mehsud from South Waziristan and Hafiz Gul Bahadur from North Waziristan had formed an alliance—Shura Ittehad al-Mujahideen (Allied Mujahideen Council), which pledged loyalty to Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, vowing to fight the “infidel governments” of the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
In a May 2011 interview with the Asia Times, Nazir openly supported the ameer of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Mohammad Omar and Osama bin Laden while rejecting claims that he was opposed to al-Qaeda.
Therefore, the Nazir faction has been the target of US drone strikes which had already killed his younger brother, Hazrat Omar, in the Wana area in June 2011.
Nazir had reacted to the killing of his younger brother by banning polio vaccinations in his areas, alleging that the polio programme was being used by the Americans to gather intelligence and conduct drone strikes in the Pakistani tribal areas.