Growing fissures within the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) are fuelling doubts about the monolithic status of the extremist outfit. The cracks have become more discernible following the government’s vague offer of peace negotiations.
On Saturday, the TTP sacked Asmatullah Muawiya, the chief of Punjabi Taliban, for welcoming Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s call for talks.
“The Taliban Shura (decision-making body) met under Commander Hakimullah Mehsud and decided that Asmatullah Muawiya has no relation with the TTP,” said TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid.
“He is respectable for us, but he has no relation with the TTP. The decision about the new head of Punjab Taliban will be taken in the next meeting of our decision makers,” he said.
However, Asmatullah Muawiya rejected the TTP decision, saying that the group has no authority to sack him. “The Punjabi Taliban have their own Shura which makes their own decisions,” he said in a statement.
About the government’s dialogue offer, the TTP spokesperson said that their Shura would take a final decision. “If the government shows flexibility, we will show flexibility … asking us to disarm before peace talks is ridiculous and unacceptable, however,” he said.
The Defence Cabinet Committee agreed on Wednesday that extremists would have to renounce violence and disarm for talks. Interestingly, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, however, said in a television interview on Saturday that the government has set any preconditions for talks with militants.
In his maiden televised address to nation, Premier Nawaz Sharif said on Monday that his government would prefer talks to end a nagging insurgency which has killed and maimed thousands of people over the past few years.
Asmatullah Muawiya welcomed the move. “The prime minister has shown maturity with his talks offer and he has also strengthened the desire for peace by staying executions,” he said in a statement issued in Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan Agency.
But Muawiya’s response came as a surprise for many within the TTP as the group had withdrawn its earlier talks offer to the government after its second-in-command Waliur Rehman Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike earlier this year.
Muawiya’s sacking points to growing divisions within the TTP. Earlier in July, the group had sacked its central spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan for making remarks that angered their namesakes in Afghanistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2013.