Chief of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Hakimullah Mehsud has been in isolation for more than a year and is rapidly losing control over the terror group he once led with absolute command and authority, his associates and intelligence officials said.
Insiders of the dreaded militant outfit in the country’s lawless tribal badlands and intelligence officials in Islamabad told The Express Tribune that Hakimullah might soon be faced with more rebels from within the TTP after last week’s defection by one of his top commanders.
Fazal Saeed Haqqani, who was appointed by Hakimullah for the strategic Kurram tribal region, announced to separate his group of more than 1,000 fighters from the main outfit in what appeared to be the first serious fracture for the TTP.
The defection took place within days after unknown attackers killed a spokesperson for the TTP’s Fidayeen-e-Islam group – the suicide bombing squad.
The killing of Shakirullah Shakir, a key figure of the TTP, in Mirali town of North Waziristan has raised questions over how influential Hakimullah still is in the region.
“It was like a slap on the face for him. Nobody could have imagined such things here sometime back,” a tribal source commented on the murder, which is still unsolved.
A day after Haqqani’s announcement to split, a group of the Taliban from Khyber Agency attacked their counterparts from Orakzai in what appeared to be another sign of growing friction within the TTP and lack of a centralised and coordinated leadership.
“All these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg. There may be a series of challenges for him … you will see more of his boys turning against him and this is exactly what we desired and have been working on,” claimed an official, who deals with counter-terror operations in the tribal areas, while choosing to stay anonymous. His comments were verified by some of Hakimullah’s associates.
“It looks as though he is just a figurehead now. He can hardly communicate with his commanders in other parts of the tribal areas … he is in total isolation. Only a few people within the TTP know where he is,” said one of Hakimullah’s affiliates.
Although Pakistani military officials claimed credit for Hakimullah’s isolation, tribal sources said it was more likely due to fears of being hit by drones rather than anything else.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 5th, 2011.