ISLAMABAD: In a development that highlights the murky world of intelligence agencies using militant groups for their own ends, the Pakistani military on Wednesday released a video confession of a senior militant leader, who gave a rare insight into the working of terrorist groups, including murderous Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s connections with Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies.
Pakistan has long insisted that Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) and India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) are funding and helping the TTP and its affiliates to carry out terrorist attacks in the country.
But this is the first time that a senior TTP commander, who spent almost a decade with the group before turning himself in last week, publicly admitted the RAW-NDS nexus to harbour anti-Pakistan terrorist groups.
In the six-minute video confession released by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), TTP’s former spokesperson Liaquat Ali, better known by his nom de guerre, Ehsanullah Ehsan, divulged details of how the outfit used the name of Islam to misguide young minds and even willing to accept help from countries such as Israel to carry out terrorist activities.
The highlight of his recorded statement during which he appeared calm and composed was his disclosure about the role of NDS and RAW in using groups such as TTP to create unrest in Pakistan.
He said the TTP leadership had fled to Afghanistan as a result of Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan. He said in Afghanistan he had come to know that the TTP had established links with RAW and NDS.
“The NDS arranged Afghan national identity cards to TTP commanders and foot soldiers to ease their movement inside Afghanistan,” says Ehsan in his first appearance since it was announced last week he had surrendered.
Ehsan, who holds a master’s degree, joined TTP’s Mohmand chapter in 2008 while still a college student and was given the nom de guerre of Sajjad Mohmand. At the time commander Abdul Wali, alias Umer Khalid Khorasani, was the head of the Mohmand chapter. Ehsan was later elevated as TTP’s central spokesperson – a position he had kept until the death of TTP head honcho Hakimullah Mesud in a US drone strike on Nov 1, 2013.
After Hakimullah’s death, the TTP disintegrated and Khorasani broke away to form own faction, Jamaat-ul-Ahrar (JuA). Subsequently, Ehsan was made the spokesperson of the splinter group. However, the JuA – which is now the most lethal terror group in Pakistan – replaced him with Asad Mansoor last year.
Ehsan says the TTP leadership received funds from India and carried out terrorist attacks in Pakistan at their behest. “They pushed TTP’s foot soldiers to the front-lines to fight against Pakistani security forces while they themselves hid in safe havens,” he adds.
“When they [TTP leaders] started receiving funds from India and [its spy agency] RAW, I told Umar Khalid Khorasani that we’re supporting infidels and helping them kill our own people in our own country,” Ehsan recalls.
“He [Khorasani] said, ‘even if Israel offers to fund me to spread terror in Pakistan, I will take their help’… This is when I realised that the TTP leadership was serving own interests and furthering own agenda,” says Ehsan in the video, which shows him wearing shalwar-kameez with a Pashtun flat cap.
“These [terrorist] organisations have their committees in Afghanistan through which they communicate with NDS, and through NDS, with RAW,” he adds. “They [RAW and NDS] supported [TTP], extending financial assistance and they also gave targets, and for each attack (TTP) charged a price.”
The TTP leaders didn’t practice what they preached.
“A particular group misled the innocent, kidnapped them to extort money,” he says. “Pakistan Army has destroyed several JuA camps in Afghanistan and killed many of their commanders in its operations. As a result, they [terrorists] had to flee the area and abandon their headquarters. This has also shaken the morale of their fighters and their senior leadership.”
“The same group is responsible for bombings at public places, including schools, colleges, and universities. This is against the teachings of Islam,” Ehsan says.
Ehsan reveals that Mullah Fazlullah became TTP chief through a lucky draw. “The fight for leadership intensified when operations began in Waziristan. When everybody in the organisation began fighting for leadership, the Shura (consultative committee) decided to have a lucky draw. Mullah Fazlullah became the leader via lucky draw,” he says.
“What can you expect from such an organisation in which leaders are selected through a lucky draw?”
Giving a message to those who “are stuck there [in the TTP] and who want to quit,” Ehsan said: “Adopt the path of peace and come back to the life of peace and tranquility.”
Reacting to Ehsan’s confession, ISPR’s Director General Major Gen Asif Ghafoor said Ehsan’s admission exposed hostile foreign agenda and their designs to destabilise Pakistan. “Our youth is our strength, shall never fall prey,” he added.
However, Afghanistan strongly refuted Ehsan’s claim, while India’s Ministry of External Affairs said it was not yet able to comment on the video.
“Pakistan has always been pushing this narrative of being victim of terrorism while the fact it sponsors and supports terrorist activities in Afghanistan and India,” said an Afghan security official.
“Now Pakistan is under enormous pressure from the international community to crack down on extremists and it is trying to evade responsibility by playing victim once again.”