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November 2, 2013

Khan Said alias Sajna main contender for top post

 
November 2, 2013

ISLAMABAD: The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is all set to experience a fresh power tussle following the reported death of the most-wanted TTP Ameer Hakeemullah Mehsud and his No2 Abdullah Behar, who had replaced Latif Mehsud after his recent arrest by the Americans in Afghanistan.
Khan Said alias Sajna is most likely to succeed Hakeemullah as the new TTP Ameer.
Hakeemullah’s death is the third major setback suffered by the TTP in a short span of six months – beginning with the death of TTP’s No2 Waliur Rehman Mehsud in a drone attack in May 2013, followed by the September 2013 arrest of Latif Mehsud, who was made the deputy Ameer of the TTP only recently by Hakimullah while replacing Khan Said alias Sajna, a close adviser of Waliur Rehman.
Latif was arrested by the American troops from the Logar province of Afghanistan on October 5, 2013, where he had gone to hold talks with Afghan intelligence officials. Latif was elevated as the deputy Ameer of TTP after Hakimullah had developed serious differences with his No2 — the 36-year-old Khan Said alias Sajna.
However, after Latif’s arrest, Hakimullah was quick to elevate commander Abdullah Bahar as his No2 who too is reported to have been killed in the US drone strike along with his boss.
With commander Latif having already been arrested and commander Abdullah killed, commander Khan Said alias Sajna has bright chances of succeeding Hakimullah as the TTP Ameer keeping in view his guerilla skills and the goodwill he still enjoys among the various Taliban factions. But he had to face tough resistance from Hakimullah’s loyalists.
Even though Hakimullah’s death is being described as a major blow to the TTP-government peace efforts, there are those in the establishment circles who believe that the peace efforts would speed up if commander Khan Said becomes the new Ameer of the TTP. In the wake of Waliur Rehman’s death in a US drone attack in Waziristan on May 29, 2013, Sajna was not only

appointed Hakimullah’s No2, but he was also made the commander of South Waziristan chapter of the TTP, a position which was being held by Waliur Rehman till his death.
A resident of the Shobikhel area of South Waziristan, Khan Said alias Sajna was a close aide and a longtime personal assistant of Waliur Rehman. Like many other Taliban commanders, Sajna too has been involved in fighting against the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.
But Hakimullah had replaced Said with Latif in August following rising differences with him over numerous issues, the most important being the matter of peace talks with the government and mishandling of the TTP coffers. While Khan Said alias Sajna had a leaning for peace talks with the government just like Waliur Rehman, Hakimullah was under the influence of those who believe in bloodshed instead of peace.
Subsequently, Latif was not only made the deputy Ameer of TTP but was also appointed the commander of the terror outfit in Miramshah, the capital of North Waziristan which also headquarters the Hakimullah-led Taliban. However, while refusing to relinquish his position as the deputy Ameer of the terror outfit, Sajna had stepped up his efforts to put together a parallel set-up of his own loyalists within the TTP in South Waziristan.
While Sajna maintained that the key slot of the TTP’s deputy Ameer should not have been given to a driver and that too without consultation, Hakimullah had justified his decision, saying he too had been the driver of TTP’s founding Ameer Baitullah Mehsud before being elevated as the TTP Ameer.
On the other hand, despite being removed by Hakimullah, Khan Said Sajna remained a part of the TTP. He not only strengthened his clout in the militant circles of South Waziristan but has also managed to garner the support of all the 12 Mehsud tribal chiefs of North Waziristan. However, the selection of the new TTP Ameer would be an uphill task for the Taliban especially at a time when the TTP faces a leadership crisis because of the frequent deaths of its top commanders.
A day before Hakimullah was taken out by an American drone, Nawaz Sharif had stated in London that the dialogue with the Taliban had begun. Sharif had urged the US President Obama only last week during his visit to the US to halt the drone campaign which was also killing civilians. Informed diplomatic sources say a successful drone attack is not possible without precise ground intelligence information which [in Hakimullah’s case] might have been provided by the Pakistani authorities, which has been sharing intelligence with the Americans despite bilateral tensions.
Hakimullah was most wanted not only by Pakistani security agencies but also by the Americans for killing seven CIA officials in a suicide attack on December 30, 2009, at a CIA base in the Khost area of Afghanistan.
Hakimullah had appeared alongside the Egyptian suicide bomber, Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, in a January 2010 video that claimed responsibility for the suicide attack in retaliation for the death of Baitulluh Mehsud in a drone attack. The video was shot in North Waziristan.
Hakimullah was also wanted by the US for the failed bombing of Times Square in New York on May 1, 2010, which involved a Pakistani American, Faisal Shehzad. Hakimullah Mehsud later appeared in a video on May 2, 2010, claiming credit for the attempted attack in the heart of New York, and promised further attacks in the US.
Subsequently, both Washington and Islamabad had announced bounties of $5 million and Rs50 million on his head, forcing him to go underground. Hakimullah had replaced TTP founder Baitullah Mehsud after his death in a US drone attack on August 6, 2013, in South Waziristan. Although, Pakistan government was not sure of his death, US President Obama was the first one to have stated on August 20, 2009: “We took out Baitullah Mehsud in a missile strike by a US drone.
“You’ve got the Pakistan Army for the first time fighting in a very aggressive way and that’s how we took out Mehsud, the top Taliban leader in Pakistan who was also one of Osama Bin Laden’s key allies,” Obama told a radio talk show host in a live broadcast from the White House. His death was finally confirmed by the Taliban almost two months later [on September 30, 2009] when a brief video showing his dead body came to surface.

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