Pakistan’s interior minister has offered a bounty for information leading to the capture of Ihsanullah Ihsan, the top spokesman for the al Qaeda-linked Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. The bounty far exceeds that of Hakeemullah Mehsud, the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, and other top commanders.
Today Interior Minister Rehman Malik offered more than $2 million for Ihsan, and said he “was working for foreign elements and vowed to soon reveal all,” according to Dawn. The Pakistani government often uses the term “foreign elements” to describe RAW, India’s intelligence service, Mossad, and the CIA. The Pakistani military has even dropped pamphlets in the tribal areas blaming the Taliban’s activities on foreign powers.
Malik also claimed that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan has fractured and split into smaller groups. The government has made this claim before, but the Taliban continue to conduct joint operations in the tribal areas and often release propaganda that includes Hakeemullah and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the commander of the South Waziristan branch.
The Pakistani government has wrongly claimed for years that the two senior Taliban commanders have been at odds, and that the two men even battled at a shura, or council, held to choose the successor of Baitullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike in August 2009. The report of the gunfight was proven false, and the two leaders later appeared in a propaganda tape debunking the government’s claim.
Ihsan’s bounty of just over $2 million is more than three times that offered for Hakemullah, Waliur Rehman, and Qari Hussain Mehsud, another senior Taliban commander who is believed to have been killed in a US drone strike.
In the fall of 2009, the Pakistani government offered rewards of $600,000 each for Hakemullah Waliur Rehman, and Qari Hussain. The government also offered rewards of $300,000 for 11 Taliban commanders in South Waziristan, and rewards of $120,000 for another six commanders.
The offer of rewards has had little effect. Since the bounties were issued in the fall of 2009, only two commanders have been killed or captured. In November 2009, Pakistani forces detained Abdullah Shah Mehsud, one of the wanted military commanders, during a raid in Tank, a district that borders South Waziristan. And in July 2010, the military killed Ameerullah Mehsud at a checkpoint in Miramshah, the main town in North Waziristan. Ameerullah was number 7 on the list, and Abdullah Shah was number 17.
Malik did not provide an explanation as to why Ihsan’s reward is more than three times higher than that of Hakeemullah and other top Taliban leaders. Ihsan has been the public face of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and has had a strong media presence. He routinely claims credit for suicide attacks, bombings, and other attacks against the government, military, security forces, and civilians.
Just yesterday, Ihsan rejected overtures from Malik to hold peace talks. Ihsan accused Malik of being “a foreign agent not worthy of granting forgiveness to the Taliban,” according to Dawn. Ihsan also said that the Taliban would fight the government until “the ouster of secular rulers imposed by foreign forces to rule an Islamic country” and sharia, or Islamic law, was imposed in Pakistan.
Eight South Waziristan Taliban commanders, pictured in a wanted poster from 2009: 1. Hakeemullah Mehsud, 2. Waliur Rehman Mehsud, 3. Qari Hussain Mehsud, 4. Azam Tariq, 5. Maulvi Azmatullah, 6. Mufti Noor Wali, 7. Asmatullah Bhittani, 8. Mohammad Anwar Gandapur.