ISLAMABAD: The government has hailed progress in peace talks with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but attacks claimed by mysterious splinter factions are threatening to undermine the process.
The TTP declared a one-month ceasefire last weekend, but that was swiftly followed by a major attack in Islamabad and a bloody roadside bombing targeting security forces - both claimed by dissident groups.
Less than 48 hours after the TTP announced its ceasefire, a gun and suicide bomb assault on an Islamabad court complex on Monday left 12 dead, the first attack in the heavily guarded capital since 2011.
It was disowned by the TTP central command but claimed by a group calling itself Ahrarul Hind, while Wednesday's roadside bombing that killed six paramilitary troops was claimed by another renegade faction, Ansarul Mujahideen.
Talks aimed at ending the TTP's seven-year insurgency resumed on Wednesday despite those blows, and on Thursday the government announced it was setting up a new committee to accelerate the process.
But the attacks have raised fears that the militant movement is splintering dangerously - though several analysts said they suspected the "new" factions were simply the TTP operating under another guise.
According to sources, Ahrarul Hind - "freedom fighters of India", referring to the sub-continent as a whole - was formed early last month by TTP fighters opposed to peace talks.
A written statement from the group sent to the media on February 9 and seen by AFP said it will not take part in peace talks and will carry on attacking cities, even if the government and TTP reach a peace deal.
"It is our resolve that we will continue our suicide attacks and armed struggle in Pakistan until enforcement of sharia," Asad Mansoor, the group's spokesperson, said in the statement.
"As we belong to Pakistan's cities so we will directly hit and carry (out) attacks inside cities."
The statement described the TTP as "brothers" but said the group was going its own way and would not be bound by the umbrella faction's orders.
Mansoor said Ahrarul Hind was led by Maulana Umar Qasmi, though several sources in militant groups said they had not heard this name before.
Few details have emerged about the group, though one militant source said many of its members were based in eastern Afghanistan.
A militant source in North Waziristan tribal district said Ahrarul Hind was largely composed of Punjabi Taliban.
Several eyewitnesses to Monday's attack in Islamabad reported hearing the militants speaking Punjabi to one another.
It is not yet clear how much traction Ahrarul Hind is getting among country's myriad militant factions, but one commander in the northwest told AFP the group had been in touch with four or five outfits.
The commander said the group had also contacted the remnants of a faction formerly led by Badar Mansoor, the head of the Pakistan chapter of al-Qaeda who was killed in a US drone strike in February 2012.
More than 110 people have been killed in militant attacks since Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced talks with the TTP in late January.
As a result, some observers have suggested that the TTP is either unable to control the various militant groups carrying out attacks in Pakistan or insincere - using talks as cover to regroup and rearm.
Saifullah Mehsud, who runs the independent FATA think tank researching the restive tribal area, said he was doubtful about the new "splinter" groups.
"To me they are all the same. I don't see any difference between Ansarul Mujahideen, between Ahrarul Hind and between TTP. They are the same residing in the same places, sharing the same premises," he told AFP.
Defence analyst Saad Muhammad agreed, saying an attack of the complexity of Monday's strike on the courts, involving several assailants armed with guns, grenades and suicide vests, suggested an experienced, well-resourced outfit.
"All the suicide factories are located in North Waziristan and these suicide factories are run jointly by TTP and the Haqqani network," he told AFP.
"How can the TTP deny these suicide bombers came from North Waziristan? They are the same. TTP is the umbrella organisation."
Security analyst Mehmood Shah, a retired brigadier and former chief of security for the tribal areas, shared the scepticism.
"This is a typical Taliban style, that they launch an attack but issue a denial," he said.
Mehsud said the hardline stance against talks could be fuelled by foreign fighters including al-Qaeda and Uzbek militants in the tribal districts worried a peace deal might close down their boltholes.
"They are the ones who have an interest in spoiling the peace in this region, because a peaceful FATA might not be very convenient to stay here," Mehsud said.
The militant commander in the northwest said that aside from strategic or ideological considerations, for many militants a peace accord would also have a financial impact.
"Some of the militant groups are involved in kidnapping for ransom and they are earning millions of rupees. How can they afford a peace accord?" he said.
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@syed M Shah: For your kind information, security is in the hands of the establishment. So just stop blaming the fall guy "Civilian". These monster were made, funded and supported by the establishment.
Their biggest advantage is the indolence and downright incompetence of the Counter Terrorist Policy of the Civillian govt that has hamstrung Army Ops, and ofcourse certain appesement parties are their fifth columnist
No comment at present ....
Unless, Pakistan detach state from the religion, this is bound to happen, and will continue to happen no matter even these so called peace talks keep happening.
The bottom line Keep religion out of politics, deal with Iron feast irrespective of their stature in the religious world
The days are nearing if pakistan cannot decide what it wants from now onward, since Afghanistan will emptied by Nato is comming very near, if not taken right action pakistan will suffer through out its existing.
I mean existing.... period.
You are wrong sir! They want to breakup the power structure, which is far easier than a grab for power!
Because TTP is puppet of foreign agencies . how ca they stop to attack in Pakistan while taking money from foreign powers . ALL talibans are killing ,kidnapping,bombing mosques in the name of Islam but the fact is that they had nothing to do with ISLAM AND ITS SHARIAT.
Awww.. Thats not a good news to hear.. TTP must take action against them as they have already signed the peace talks. TTP officials should carry their involvement and must try to figure why is this happening. We dont want war. We want peace in our country.
Before you entered negotiations you should have demanded a list of exactly which militant/terrorist groups TTP represents - never too late to ask for the obvious.
You fools, all religious parties whether in the framework of political brand or holding a gun are on the same page. They only want to come into power through any means. It is simple. Either handover the whole system in their hands or get them the way they are getting us.
These groups are making the job easier for the Government to seclude Bad Taliban and kill each & every member of the bad guys!
They have many tricks up their sleeve...........their advantage is they are focused on the target of grabbing power.. While our leaders are indifferent and their focus has always been on their own pockets.