Pakistani officials deny Taliban selected new leader

Even though Waliur Rehman Mehsud and Hakeemullah Mehsud conducted several phone calls to the press and confirmed Baitullah is dead and Hakeemullah is the new chief, Pakistan’s Interior and Foreign Ministers continue to insist the Taliban are fighting over who will be the new leader. From Daily Times:

“It is all speculation until Hakeemullah Mehsud himself comes forward and says that he [is] the TTP chief,” he [Interior Minister Rehman Malik] added. “Our information is that they have not been able to appoint anyone despite the lapse of so many days since Baitullah’s death because now they are fighting among themselves.”

Foreign Minster Shah Mehmood Qureshi also said he doubted the TTP had appointed a new leader, Reuters reported. “My information is that there is no decision taken yet,” Qureshi told a news conference in Istanbul.

“There are a lot of claimants. There is confusion. We have to wait and see who the next chief is going to be.”

One wonders what it would take to convince Malik and Qureshi at this stage that Hakeemullah is the new leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • mort says:

    pakistani intelligence officials seem downright ridiculous and stupid right now.

  • Tom Egatherion says:

    Mort, my guess if that the Int. Minister is trying to generate some sort of traffic. Specifically from Hakeemullah Mehsud. In the past, he hasn’t exactly been press shy, but the military hasn’t seemed to zero in on him yet. I’m thinking that any chance they can get to intercept a call or locate one of his ‘press conferences’ is one more chance to take a shot at him.

  • Bill Roggio says:

    Tom, I agree in this instance. However this comes at a cost: legitimacy.

  • Neo says:

    Maybe it serves some purpose, but I wouldn’t count on it. The Pakistani Interior Ministry flips more whoppers than a Burger King franchise.

  • Advisor says:

    Why is it that your overall tone and approach is so anti-Pakistan. One can guage that you are frustrated and upset with Pakistani government, military and perpahs people too. I feel that you are not satisfied with Pakistan’s approach towards the insurgents. However, for your own sake it is best not to be consumed, even partially, with enmity. The satirical and cynical attitude I see in the writing is indicative of unresolved and perhaps inadequately expressed desperation towards Pakistani government that needs to be vented out. I wish you peace of mind. You may not publish or respond to this comment but I just want to convey this message to you because I feel that you are a bit uneasy at heart on this whole affair. And because I feel that basically you are a person good on the inside and in your intentions, just a little annoyed with the Pakistanis perhaps.
    Regards and peace 🙂

  • Bill Roggio says:

    I am the furthest thing from anti-Pakistan. I support the Pakistani people and hope they are able to defeat the extremists that are inside the country. That won’t happen if the government conducts business as usual.
    Let me ask you some questions:
    Do you realize that every time a Pakistani officials purposefully misleads the Pakistani people and the media, it erodes their credibility?
    How should I treat Rehman Malik and others’ fantastic claims? Should he be given a pass?
    What did you think when Husain Haqqani told the world that the government cut a deal with local tribal leaders and not Sufi Mohammed / the TNSM / the Taliban last spring in Swat? Then he told us we had to cut a deal with the Taliban to get public support for an offensive? Is this how a responsible government acts?
    Do you think it is wise for the government to play favorites with Taliban and other terrorist groups (ignoring the Haqqanis, Bahadar, Nazir, etc. while targeting the TTP, denouncing AQ while letting LeT and JeM thrive, etc.)?
    Do you think it is wise to point out these failings, and if not, how will the Pakistani government change its behavior it it is not held to account?
    Unfortunately this is interpreted as being anti-Pakistan. If I was anti-Pakistan, I wouldn’t bother mentioning any of this in the hopes the Pakistani government will operate as it always has so the Taliban can gain the upper hand.

  • Advisor says:

    You are precisely right. In all of your points. Being a Pakistani myself, I believe in a democratic way of life where everything is open and transparent – for everybody i.e. the media and public. Perhaps we are slowly getting there after years of dictatorship. Perhaps there is still some way to go. However, the way electronic and print media has opened up in recent years is quite commendable in my opinion. Maybe you will agree with that. The way President Musharraf was ousted after the lawyers’ movement and alliance of political parties speaks about the resolve of Pakistani people to finally break the shackles of subjugation. If you are following the media these days in Pakistan you might have come across recent revelations in the news that point to wrongdoings on part of intelligence services and former military generals in the ’90s. This is something that was forever a taboo subject in Pakistan and nobody dared to point fingers at these agencies and figures. However, all of this is slowly changing in Pakistan, perhaps for the better.
    Now as regards your views about the Pakistani government and its policies about certain Taliban factions. I agree with you here. In my opinion there is indeed a possibility that the government is supporting certain Taliban elements. And the reason for that, in my understanding, is the desire of the administration here to maintain some strategic clout and depth in Afghanistan through these proxies. I think that they wish to counter the Indian influence in Afghanistan through these elements. They feel uneasy about being surrounded on both borders by India or pro-Indian elements in near or distant future. That is why the government here is perhaps turning a blind idea towards certain insurgent elements, I think. Try to think of it from a Pakistani perspective. If you, say, were the director of ISI and you had to foresee a future where the US and NATO withdrew from Afghanistan and the government was replaced by one that was decidedly pro-India, wouldn’t you be a little uneasy? I think this is the perspective of certain elements in the Pakistani administration here and that is why they are doing what they are doing. Not that I agree with it.
    In my opinion Pakistan should be a country free of weapons. There should be no insurgent groups of any kind, directed against any country. Only the police and the armed forces should be the one with weapons and the authority to use them. For how can you trust a normal person who has been radicalized and provided with weapons and training? He might turn on you one day. That is the only way forward for a peaceful and prosperous Pakistan in my opinion. I’m sure many in Pakisan’s youth will agree with me. However, I doubt that my idealistic dream for such a Pakistan will turn into reality any time soon. There’s always reason for hope though. The main problem in Pakistan is, and has always been, poverty and corruption in many of the government departments. The only solution to this is for the economy to pick up, and greater transparency and justice for the millions of the poor. I think we are slowly getting there but it will take time. Maybe another generation. Once the children are getting a proper education and the injustices in society are resolved, there will be little room for extremism and radicalism. I think might take a decade or two but I have a feeling that we will get there!
    Having said that, I do have certain crticisim of the US government too and its approach towards Afghanistan and Iraq. Why is it that despite being so advanced in their education and grooming, the government, media and perhaps people in US fail to realize certain things. That every person in the populace of Iraq and Afghanistan is a different one! He thinks, acts and behaves differently. He or she may be living under the tyranny of Saddam or Taliban but that doesn’t mean he is supportive of them. Most people just want to get on with their lives and earn bread for themselves and their family quietly. They may not approve of the dictators but what can simple individuals do when faced with guns and bullets of the tyrants. They stay silent and try to get on with their lives. However, no matter how much they dislike their oppressors, they will not be very likely to welcome for long a foreigner to ‘liberate’ them. Particularly people in conservative religous socities who have an inherent mistrust of westerners. Just think of it yourself. Let’s just say that there came a time in the US when the governing body was one that was tyrannical and evil. And let’s suppose that it was invaded and replaced by say Russia or China or whatever. How would you feel if you saw the next morning a Russian soldier outside your door? Will you be likely to welcome him with open arms or feel mistrust towards him? Perhaps many people in Afghanistan feel the same way too. Please remember that they have lived for centuries a very conservative and yet fiercely independent lifestyle. They have forever disliked foreign forces on their soil and I doubt that they will change quickly. The taliban, the pashtun, they are amongst the people and that is why they are able to mobilize the populace at times against the NATO and the US. For you to win this war you must win the hearts and minds of people. And that will only happen if you involve the elders and other people who command respect in the Pashtun society with you. Try to convince them that you are there only for the good of the Afghans and the builing of schools and health facilities is for their own benefit. Don’t support warlords and try to get rid of the corrupt elements in the Afghan government. You have to understand that you are fighting two wars here. An ideological war and a war for independence. You have to prove to people the merits of your own ideology over that of Taliban. And you have to prove that the method of governance put in place by you is not just better but far better than that of Taliban. Once you do that then only can you think of the logistics and other conventional elements of a war. Otherwise you will keep shooting at cannon fodder continually churned up by an invisible enemy that arises from the closely knit Pashtun society. In short what I am trying to say is that every time you invade an entire country based on the wrongs of a few in the government you make more enemies than friends. You must try and find a way to attain your objectives whilst making sure you don’t alienate the majority of a country’s population through your acts. Just think of this – every time a wayward bullet or bomb kills an innocent as part of the ‘collateral’ damage – that person’s family and relatives are your enemy forever. Little you can do to placate them. So I think the US and the NATO must fight this war very wisely and with lots of caution and thought. I am no expert of international geopolitics but I think it may not be a bad idea to gradually replace NATO soldiers with ones from friendly Muslim countries if possible. For people are more likely to relate to them in my opinion in Afghanistan.
    I am sorry for this long rant but I expressed what I felt was right. I hope this doesn’t offend anybody here. I have many friends in the US and having been abroad multiple times myself I know that most of you are very decent, kind and nice people. That is why I expressed what I thought was the right approach towards the situation in Afghanistan. You must win trust. That is all. I wish the best for the prosperity of Afghanis and the people in Pakistan. I hope our dreams are realized one day.


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