Asmatullah Muawiya (center), from a March 2013 video. Osama bin Laden is to Muawiya’s left, and Rasheed Ghazi, the slain leader of the Lal Masjid, is to his right. Image from the SITE Intelligence Group.
Dawn is reporting that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan (TTP) “expelled” Asmatullah Muawiya, a Pakistani terrorist who serves as one of several al Qaeda “company” commanders as well as the leader of the Taliban in Punjab province, after he responded positively to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s offer to negotiate. From Dawn:
“The Taliban decision making body met under Commander Hakimullah Mehsud and decided that Asmatullah Muawiya has no relation with the TTP,” Shahid told news agency AFP.
“He is respectable for us, but he has no relation with the TTP. The decision about the new head of TTP’s Punjab chapter will be taken in next meeting of our decision makers,” he said.
But Muawiya said that the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan doesn’t have the authority to expel him, as the Movement of the Taliban in Punjab is a separate entity:
Muawiya responded to The Associated Press that the Taliban shura did not have the capacity to remove him because the Punjabi Taliban is a separate group. He said his group has its own decision-making body to decide leadership and other matters.
Muawiya is likely correct. He is one of several Pakistani commanders who leads what Osama bin Laden described as “companies” [see LWJ report, Bin Laden docs hint at large al Qaeda presence in Pakistan].
Keep in mind that Atiyah Abd al Rahman and Abu Yahya al Libi, who each had served as al Qaeda’s chief of staff before being killed in US drone strikes, rebuked Hakeemullah Mehsud in 2010 for attempting to poach fighters from an al Qaeda company led by Badr Mansoor (also killed in a US drone strike) [see LWJ report, Bin Laden docs: Al Qaeda asserts authority in letter to Pakistani Taliban leader].
These types of territorial disputes are probably common given the overlapping nature of jihadist groups operating in Pakistan. But they don’t seem to affect the working relationship between the groups. Note how the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan is deferential to Muawiya — “He is respectable for us” — despite their disagreements.
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