Hakeemullah Mehsud, the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, has ordered his fighters to end attacks against government forces in North Waziristan, according to a report from Reuters:
The Pakistani Taliban said on Saturday they would not attack the Pakistani army in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan but concentrate attacks on Nato forces in Afghanistan instead.
Thousands of Pakistani soldiers are stationed in North Waziristan, along the Afghan border.
There have been infrequent clashes there between the soldiers and Taliban but a leaflet issued by Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud ordered those to stop. A senior commander confirmed the pamphlet’s veracity.
The report confirms that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan continues to operate in North Waziristan, despite claims from Hafiz Gul Bahadar, the top Taliban leader in the tribal agency (who is not part of Hakeemullah’s group), that the group has been expelled.
Hakeemullah and Bahadar are part of the Shura-e-Murakeba, an al Qaeda-brokered alliance that also includes the Mullah Nazir Group and the Haqqani Network. The Shura-e-Murakeba was formed at the end of 2011. The members of the Shura-e-Murakeba agreed to cease attacks against Pakistani security forces, refocus efforts against the US, and end kidnappings and other criminal activities in the tribal areas. Despite the agreement, Hakeemullah and Bahadar’s forces occasionally attacked Pakistani military units.
It is unclear as to why Hakeemullah issued the pamphlet, or if he is even serious about abiding by it. It is possible that with tensions between the Pakistani and Indian militaries at the Line of Control (two Pakistani and two Indian soldiers have been killed during clashes over the past week), Hakeemullah is easing up the pressure. The last time Pakistan and India nearly came to blows, after the Lashkar-e-Taiba launched the assault on Mumbai, India in November 2008, the Taliban vowed to back up the Pakistani military, and a senior Pakistani military commander described Hakeemullah’s forces as “patriots.”