NWFP/FATA map. Red agencies are openly controlled by the Taliban; yellow are under threat. Click map to view.
TNSM threatens suicide campaign; Taliban recruit in Tank; Peace in our time in Waziristan
The signs of the Talibanization of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) manifest on a near daily basis. Last week, Kohat was recognized as one of several districts and agencies controlled by Taliban. The two latest examples of the Taliban’s rise from prominence to dominance occurred in the settled district of Tank and the tribal agency of Bajaur. Meanwhile, the recent fighting in South Waziristan is being misrepresented by the Pakistani government as success of the Waziristan Accord, and the Western media continues to miss the real story behind the infighting between the Taliban and the Uzbek al Qaeda.
In Bajaur, where the Pakistani government recently agreed to hand over control to the Taliban under the guise of the local tribes, the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (the TNSM, or Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad’s Sharia Law) has threated to conduct a nationwide suicide bombing campaign if the government doesn’t release Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the TNSM. “TNSM workers participated in a public meeting at Mela Ground in Matta after forcing their way through several roadblocks set up by the administration,” reports the Daily Times. “Addressing the participants, TNSM leaders Maulana Abdul Haq, Maulana Dost Muhammad and Maulana Safiullah warned the government that 100 suicide bombers were ready to hit various targets across Pakistan if Sufi Muhammad was not freed.” The TNSM has given the government a 72 hour deadline before the suicide campaign begins.
The TNSM is known as the “Pakistani Taliban” and is the group behind the ideological inspiration for the Afghan Taliban. TNSM sent over 10,000 fighters into Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces during Operation Enduring Freedom in October 2001. Faqir Mohammed, a senior leader of the TNSM who is wanted by the Pakistani government, kicked of a suicide campaign after the air strike on the Chingai madrassa in October of 2006. Forty-five Pakistani soldiers were killed after a suicide bomber sent by Faqir struck at Pakistani Army recruits training outside of the Dargai base in the NWFP.
In the settled district of Tank, a local policeman and a Taliban fighter were killed after a clash at a local high school for boys. The Taliban were on a local recruitment drive. “The school had asked for police protection after Taliban militants visited several schools in the area in recent days to recruit students to fight NATO and US forces in Afghanistan,” the Associated Press reported. “[Residents ] said the Islamist insurgents delivered speeches to win over young men and had recruited about three dozen students, while another 100 promised to join later.” Two Taliban were captured and “the unhurt militant was from South Waziristan.”
South Waziristan is the scene of recent infighting between Taliban forces behind Mulah Nazir and Uzbek al Qaeda. A local television statement claimed the ceasefire was broken, however the Daily Times claims the truce has held.
As we have stated since the fighting began last week, the international media has characterized the fighting as between local, pro-government tribes battling foreign al Qaeda. The Pakistani government has done everything in its power to foster this notion, as it both promotes its failed Waziristan Accord as a success and enables the government to show their fight against terrorism is working. But this is in fact an internal power struggle between Mullah Nazir, who does in fact support Arab al Qaeda, and Uzbeks that are settled in the region. Nazir “had asked all foreigners to leave the region or surrender to local tribesmen.” Nazir also said the Uzbeks could in fact stay but “only if they guaranteed to maintain peace.” Translation: the Uzbeks are welcome if they submit to Nazir’s command.
Pakistan’s newspapers understand who the players are. The Nation described Nazir as the “chief of Taliban Shura for Ahmadzai Wazir dominated areas of South Waziristan Agency.” Dawn called Nazir “a top pro-Taliban militant commander in Wana region.” Last winter, The Daily Times identified Nazir as one of the three top Taliban commanders in South Waziristan. Nazir was one of the Taliban commanders who signed the Waziristan Accord in September of 2006.
Lost in the Pakistani government’s media blitz to tout this as a success is Nazir’s support of al Qaeda Arabs and the fight in Afghanistan. The fighting began after the Uzbeks were accused of killing a mid level Arab al Qaeda know as Saiful Adil. “Maulvi Nazir supports the Arabs,” noted the Daily Times, “and suspected that the Uzbeks had murdered Adil.”
Haji Sharif, an aide to Mullah Nazir, is explicit the jihad against the West and Afghanistan will continue despite the conflicts in Pakistan. “We will continue our jihad (in Afghanistan) if that is against America, the Russians, British or India as long as we have souls in our bodies,” said Sharif.
Also lost in the Western media’s coverage is the role that the senior Taliban command and Pakistan’s Islamist political parties are playing in the negotiations. Afghan Taliban leaders Sirajuddin Haqqani (son of Jalaladin Haqqani, the head of the Taliban military committee), Mullah Dadullah (a senior Afghan Taliban field commander) and Maulvi Bakhta Jan were sent to Waziristan. Baitullah Meshud, the head of the Taliban in South Wazristan who is responsible for a recent nationwide suicide campaign, was also brought in, reportedly from the fighting in Helmand province in Afghanistan. The Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), one of the Islamist parties within the Taliban supporting Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), which runs the NWFP, was instrumental in brokering the truce.
To simplify this, the political party that controls both South Waziristan and the Northwest Frontier Province sat in the same room with some of the most senior Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including men directly implicated in suicide attacks in Pakistan and terror and military attacks in Afghanistan. They negotiated a truce with two warring members of the Taliban-al Qaeda network, in order to keep the peace during the Afghan ‘spring offensive’ as well as to stop the international attention the infighting has created.