SHAWAL: The Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) have threatened Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) chief Imran Khan against a planned march to Waziristan to protest US drone attacks.
Talking to the Associated Press on Monday in South Waziristan, a Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesperson Ahsanullah Ahsan had said they would attack Khan because he calls himself a ‘liberal’, a term usually reserved by them for a person lacking religious belief.
The threat comes as a surprise since not only Khan and TTP share their opposition to drone strikes in the region, but the former, one would argue, has demonstrated his religiosity publicly, praying in front of the crowd at his rallies.
Khan too has maintained that he is a liberal and a practicing Muslim. Some of his critics have nicknamed him "Taliban Khan" because of his views and ties with conservative religious parties, who could help him attract right-wing voters in the upcoming general elections.
Ahsan reiterated in the interview that the TTP did not want Khan’s help in opposing drone attacks.
"We will not accept help or sympathy from any infidel,” said Ahsan, referring to Khan. "We can fight on our own with the help of God,” he said, as, ironically, drones flew overhead.
Earlier in July, Khan had announced that he was planning to lead thousands of people in a march to Waziristan in September to protest against the strikes.
A PTI spokesperson could not be immediately reached for comment.
Ahsan added that the Taliban considered anyone who participates in elections, even Islamist parties, as infidels and will target them.
"The election process is part of a secular system,” said Ahsan. ”We want an Islamic system and will create hurdles to secularism.”
According to the report, the journalist was taken to where Ahsan was hiding, from a compound in the Shawal area that housed several dozen Taliban fighters armed to the teeth with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenade launchers and anti-aircraft guns.
Artillery fired by the Pakistani army regularly pounded the ground near the compound.
The military had launched a major operation against the Pakistani Taliban in South Waziristan in 2009 and claimed to have largely cleared the area. However militants regularly launch attacks in the region.
Providing further details, the AP report said that Ahsan had arrived for the interview in a pick-up truck with two other Taliban commanders. He was wearing a white shalwar kameez and a woolen Chitrali cap. He spoke with an assault rifle laid across his lap.
Ahsan and the other commanders fired into the air in celebration at the end of the interview.