DERA ISMAIL KHAN / MIRANSHAH: Deepening fissures within the ranks of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) intensified when the Mehsud faction on Wednesday announced its separation from the TTP umbrella group, Express News reported.
Spokesperson of the group Azam Tariq, who was also a part of the Taliban shura, announced during a press conference from an undisclosed location that the Mehsud group – under the leadership of Ameer Khalid Mehsud – had decided to break away from the TTP.
Unhappy with the central leadership of TTP, Tariq claimed that the decision to split was taken after careful consideration.
Tariq claimed that TTP have fallen in the hands of conspirators and been involved in burglaries and extortion.
“We tried our best to stay united but failed,” he said, adding that the central leadership was being controlled by hidden forces.
Vowing to stop oppressors from doing wrong, Tariq said his group will call a meeting and decide their future course of action.
Explaining what this separation means, government negotiator Rustam Shah Mohmand told Express News that Mehsud tribe had been heading the militant group since its beginning and it was not happy with Maulvi Fazlullah becoming the new chief.
“Since Mehsud tribe had suffered the most in this decade-long insurgency, it believes the leadership should stay with them,” Mohmand said, adding that the tribe also felt thousands of its members had lost their lives and been displaced from their hometowns and so the bloodshed should end.
“Mehsud tribe wants to make a deal with the government and live peacefully in order to protect the remaining members of the tribe and this created rift within the TTP,” Mohmand said.
The government negotiator added that time will tell if all Mehsuds will part ways with the TTP. He, however, said there is a chance more splinter groups will disassociate itself.
Expressing similar views to that of Mohmand, defence analyst Lt General (retd) Talat Masood, while speaking to Express News, stated that the Mehsud group never accepted Maulvi Fazlullah as their leader.
Implying that the separation might be good for Pakistan, he also said that terrorism in the country may reduce as a result of this separation.
The Mehsud tribesmen make up 70% of the local population in South Waziristan but they no longer call the place their home but a safe haven for Taliban militants.
“Eighty per cent of Mehsud tribesmen have fled to other parts of the country,” Mohmand had told The Express Tribune. Of the agency’s estimated three million population, Mohmand had reckoned nearly 1.6 million now live in camps for ‘internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) – out of which three-fourths are Mehsud tribesmen.
While the displacement is owed largely to security operations and drone warfare targeting the Taliban’s central leadership which is mostly drawn from the Mehsud tribe, Mohmand had said the bloody strife also destroyed sources of livelihood.
In part, he had attributed the mass exodus to the breakdown of the Mehsud’s economic base because border trade with Afghanistan was the mainstay of local economy. With the agency in the grip of militants since 2004, Mohmand had said numerous Mehsud businessmen and their families have shifted to Islamabad and Lahore.