Hakeemullah Mehsud [center right] as he organized the attack on a prison in Bannu.
For some reason, Reuters seems to want to perpetuate the myth that Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman Mehsud, the top two leaders of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, are “at each other’s throats,” a claim that Waliur Rehman himself has denied. Back in January, I debunked the claims, and the long-awaited clash between the two never materialized. You can read about that here.
Eleven months later, Reuters pretty much writes the same story. This time, unnamed Pakistani military sources are making the claims. But in the process of making the case for the split between the two leaders, the Pakistani officials tell an easily demonstrable lie. And “lie” isn’t a term I use easily around here, but in this case, it applies.
While making the case that Hakeemullah is no longer in charge of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s operations, Pakistani officials told Reuters the following:
Intelligence officials said Mehsud had not commanded any recent operations, including an August 16 attack on the Minhas Airbase in Pakistan and a suicide attack on a street market in May that killed 24 people.
Military sources said Rehman planned the April 15 jail break in Bannu in Pakistan that freed 384 prisoners, including an estimated 200 Taliban members and an al Qaeda-linked militant who had attempted to assassinate former president Pervez Musharraf.
Now, the officials aren’t clear how they know Hakeemullah wasn’t involved in the Minhas suicide assault; it does fit the profile of other attacks he directed.
But the real kicker is the Bannu prison break. We know for a fact that Hakeemullah was involved. How do we know? The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan released a videotape of the operations, in which both Waliur Rehman and Hakeemullah appeared. And guess what? Hakeemullah himself appears on the videotape where the Taliban are staging to conduct the attack. You can see him there, and you can see his men surrounding him. So we know for certain that Hakeemullah was indeed directly involved in the Bannu prison break. The Pakistani officials who tracked the Bannu prison break would also know this.
Pakistani officials have been promoting a split between Hakeemullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman Mehsud for years, beginning with the fake battle at the shura to succeed Bailtullah Mehsud, the emir of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan who was killed in an August 2009 drone strike. The battle never happened, yet Pakistani officials insist to this day that it did. We’ve covered this, and other such nonsense, extensively at The Long War Journal.
Dare I say that Pakistani officials are using Reuters and other news agencies as part of a not-so-sophisticated information operation designed to split the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan’s top leadership? It is high time that news organizations see through this patently obvious nonsense.