Hardly half a year after forming an alliance on the intervention of Taliban head-honcho Mullah Omar, rival groups of the Pakistani Taliban are once again at each other’s throats following the killing of a top militant blamed on a pro-government commander.
Tension gripped South Waziristan Agency when Hakimullah Mehsud-led Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) threatened to attack the Wana-based Maulvi Nazir group to avenge last week’s murder of Wali Muhammad Wazir.
Wali was a younger brother of Nek Muhammad Wazir, the militant commander who had unleashed Talibanisation in Pakistan before he died in the first-ever drone attack in the country in 2004.
Wali Muhammad’s henchmen took control of the area to hunt down the murderers, but nobody has been identified thus far. Approximately 200 men are associated with his group, and most are non-local.
If fighting breaks out between the TTP and Maulvi Nazir group the new fragile alliance of Pakistani Taliban, Shura Muraqba, which was formed this February after years of infighting, will be at stake.
According to earlier reports, top leaders of the Haqqani network— a deadly Afghan Taliban group based in North Waziristan—had mediated between the Pakistani Taliban for the formation of Shura Muraqba.
And now as the alliance is under threat, the Haqqanis are once again trying to defuse the situation through their influence on both groups, said locals in the Waziristan region.
Local Wazir tribesmen had forced Wali Muhammad, former host of the foreign militants in South Waziristan, and his diehard loyalists into exile. He returned home only a few months ago as a result of negotiation with current Taliban commander Maulvi Nazir.
Associates on both sides told The Express Tribune that Wali returned to Wana in South Waziristan after Shura Muraqba was formed this February.
It was in early 2008 when Maulvi Nazir, a commander of around 3,000 Wazir militants based in and around Wana and thought to be close to Pakistani security agencies, drove some six to seven dozen Uzbek fighters out of his areas in an armed campaign against them.
Baitullah Mehsud, the then TTP chief who was also killed in a drone strike in 2008, vowed revenge and later a suicide bomber allegedly sent by Hakimullah struck inside a seminary in Wana belonging to one of Nazir’s closest associates, killing him and scores of others.
Locals fear the same kind of bloodletting in and around Wana that had followed the expulsion of Uzbek militants from the region in 2008.
One of TTP’s associates, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the group had suspicions that Maulvi Nazir had ordered the killing of Wali Muhammad because of his rising influence in the area.
On the other hand, Maulvi’s group blamed the TTP for bringing Uzbek and Tajik militants back to the area, saying Wali Muhammad was protecting them.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2012.