A Taliban commander who left the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan after an internal feud last year claimed credit for a suicide attack today that killed 39 civilians at a market in Parachinar in the Kurram tribal agency. Fazal Saeed Haqqani defected from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan last June after publicly chiding the group for intentionally killing civilians. This is what he said when he defected and joined the Haqqani Network, or what Pakistani officials like to call the “good Taliban” (those who do not attack the Pakistani state):
“I repeatedly told the leadership council of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan that they should stop suicide attacks against mosques, markets and other civilian targets,” Saeed told AFP by telephone.
“Islam does not allow killings of innocent civilians in suicide attacks,” he said, likening what TTP does in Pakistan to “what US troops are doing in Afghanistan” and vowing to continue the fight alone against the Americans.
“I have therefore decided to quit TTP,” Saeed said, claiming to have defected along with “hundreds of supporters.” A 10-member consultative council will meet within days to formulate the group’s programme, he told AFP.
Here is what he said today, while claiming credit for the suicide attack in a call to Reuters:
“We have targeted the Shia community of Parachinar because they were involved in activities against us,” he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
“We also warn the political administration of Parachinar to stop siding with the Shia community in all our disputes.”
So, less than a year after he denounced the Taliban for intentionally killing civilians and defected to the Haqqani Network, Fazal Saeed decides he is justified in murdering civilians.
Last summer, when Fazal Saeed defected, the Pakistani military and government touted the development as a breakthrough in reducing the power of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The press uncritically repeated this line, held his defection up as yet another sign of the decline of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and inflated his position within the Taliban (the press called him the overall leader in Kurram when in fact he commanded several hundred fighters).
But at The Long War Journal and Threat Matrix, we warned you that such views were both wrong and dangerous. Here are two points from a post on June 27, 2011. We even predicted that Fazal Saeed may not consider the Shia to be civilians:
- Note that Fazal didn’t condemn suicide bombings, but only attacks against civilians, and at markets and mosques. Presumably all other targets are fair game. And one wonders if Fazal considers Shia to be “civilians,” given that he’s responsible for the butchering of quite a few in Kurram.
- Fazal’s defection from the TTP will likely be touted by some observers as a major blow to the terror group, but in all likelihood, little will change in the big picture. Fazal isn’t going up against the TTP, he just dropped out of the fight. He still wants to impose Sharia, or Islamic law, in both Afghanistan and Pakistan, and is continuing to battle US forces in Afghanistan. In all likelihood, Fazal merely joined the so-called “good Taliban,” the groups that are favored by the Pakistani state. The Haqqani Network has expanded its influence greatly in Kurram [see this report at AEI from Reza Jan and Jeffrey Dressler for more information], and Fazal may be positioning himself to ally with them (note that Haqqani Network fighters were killed in his camps during last week’s Predator strikes).
And see the conclusion to a July 5, 2011 post that addressed the so-called decline of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan in the context of Fazal Saeed’s defection:
What you are witnessing [Kurram with Fazal Saeed’s defection] is a very cynical game by the Pakistani military and intelligence establishment to get wayward Taliban groups back into the fold.
In other words, Fazal Saeed’s “defection” from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan means little in the big picture when it comes to the jihadi groups that operate in Pakistan. He still supports jihad in Afghanistan, seeks to impose sharia law in Pakistan, and shelters terrorists, including la Qaeda, in areas under his control. Just like the Haqqanis and Taliban commanders such as Hafiz Gul Bahadar and Mullah Nazir, all of whom are not members of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The only difference between them and the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is that the former do not advocate attacking the Pakistani state.