News APP

NewsApp (Free)

Read news as it happens
Download NewsApp

Available on  gplay  » News » The death of a 'bad Taliban'

The death of a 'bad Taliban'

By Tahir Ali
August 10, 2009 18:46 IST
Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
The death of Pakistan's Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud in an American drone attack has once again brought to the fore the differences between the 'good Taliban' and the 'bad Taliban'. Pakistan-based journalist Tahir Ali analyses the differences and conflicts within the Taliban, which is facing intensive military operations in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"The Taliban's Jihad against foreign forces in Afghanistan will not be affected if a Pakistani Taliban leader is killed on the other side of the Durand Line (which divides Afghanistan and Pakistan)," said Zabiullah Mujahid, the Taliban's spokesperson in Afghanistan, in the wake of reports that Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud was killed.

Zabiullah's assessment is right, as the death of Mehsud might be a big blow to the Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan, but not to the Afghan Taliban.

There were differences of opinion between the chiefs of the Taliban in the two countries earlier. Mullah Omer, the head of Afghan Taliban, has good relations with some elements in Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence and he doesn't want unrest in Pakistan.

But Baitullah Mehsud, along with his deputy Hakimullah Mehsud, carried out a number of attacks against ISI installations in Pakistan. Mehsud felt that there was no difference between the fight against Pakistani security forces and the fight against the forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's forces in Afghanistan, as both are following same agenda.

His men preferred fighting in Pakistan instead of Afghanistan -- they termed Pakistani forces the 'near enemy' while NATO forces were branded the 'far enemy'.

Pakistani Taliban elements can be broadly divided into two groups, the 'good Taliban' and the 'bad Taliban'. A number of Pakistani politicians are of the view that Pakistan should promote the 'good Taliban' for its own interest rather than that of the United States.

'Good Taliban' are those who never target Pakistani armies and their focus remains on Afghanistan, while the 'bad Taliban' mainly attack Pakistani government installations and often seek refuge across the border.

The relations between the 'good Taliban' and the Pakistan government are based on the theory of 'mutual non-interference in each other's affairs'.

Qari Zainuddin Mehsud, the head of the anti-Baitullah group, is an example of this group. He enjoyed the support of state agencies, confronted Baitullah Mehsud and openly supported the Jihad in Afghanistan against NATO forces. However, Zainuddin Mehsud could not oppose Baitullah for a long time, as he was killed by his guard on June 23 this year.

Mullah Omer, one of the world's most wanted men, has good ties with Mullah Nazir, who has great influence over the agency's Wazir-dominated areas. South Waziristan is broadly divided into two parts -- Mehsud-built and Wazir-built. Mehsud is the largest tribe comprising 60 per cent of the population that lives in Sarokai, Kaniguram, Makin, Shakatoi and Sararogha, while 35 per cent of the populations is made up of Wazirs who are dominant in Wana, the headquarters of the agency, and its environs.

Mullah Nazir, a 'good Talib', enjoys good relations with the Pakistan government. His followers never attack security forces in the area and the army reciprocates by not disturbing his fighters while they cross the Durand Line. In 2006, Taliban forces in this part were also fighting against Pakistani security forces, under the leadership of commander Haji Omer, the cousin of slain Taliban commander Naik Muhammad.

Naik Muhammad had initiated an armed struggle against the Pakistani forces in South Waziristan. He later signed a peace agreement with the government but the accord was sabotaged when he was killed during a drone attack in 2004.

Haji Omer, popularly known for harbouring foreign militants, especially Uzbeks, succeeded Naik Muhammad. The aggressive Uzbeks carried out attacks against the security forces and local chieftains, which dampened the Taliban's popularity in the area. The Taliban elements in Afghanistan were concerned about this development, as they often crossed over to Pakistan, especially during winter.

When the public opinion against Haji Omer and the Uzbeks became stronger, Mullah Omer appointed Mullah Nazir, his blue-eyed boy, as the head of all Taliban factions in Wana and its surroundings. The newly appointed head of Taliban started cleansing operation against Uzbeks and their host Haji Omer -- they were ousted in March 2007.

Incidentally, Haji Omer and Uzbek militants were welcomed by Baitullah Mehsud, drawing the ire of both Mullah Omer and Mullah Nazir.

Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the head of the Taliban faction in neighbouring North Waziristan, follows a similar policy of opposing Jihad within Pakistan and focusing on the fight inside Afghanistan.

Gul Bahadur, a 'good Talib', enjoys the support of government agencies and of Mullah Omer. Maulana Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of senior Afghan Jihadi Jalaluddin Haqqani, follows the same policy.

In 2006, when fighting erupted between Pakistani security forces and the Taliban at North Waziristan, Mullah Dadullah, a dreaded Afghan Taliban commander, brokered a peace deal between the two parties. Dadullah, who was killed later, wanted Waziristan to be a safe haven for Taliban fighters, and didn't want clashes with Pakistani security forces.

Gul Bahadur Wazir, the head of the Taliban in North Waziristan, initially fought against Pakistani security forces, but signed a peace deal with the government in 2006. However, in 2007, he broke the agreement, only to re-enter into a peace deal with the government. In June 2009, he again withdrew from the deal.

After Baitullah Mehsud's death, the state agencies are trying to create a rift in the Baitullah-led TTP, over the issue of leadership. State-owned media also carried some baseless reports that Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman, both likely successors of Mehsud, have killed each other.

Some 'good Taliban' commanders, backed by Pakistani agencies, are trying to appoint some pro-government commander as the head of TTP. But members of the al-Qaeda and the Punjabi Taliban, who have good contacts with the TTP, have rushed to the area to appoint the new chief.

Hakimullah Mehsud is the strongest contender for the slot but Mufti Waliur Rehman is also not far behind in the race to succeed Baitullah

According to a report, the ISI provided the Central Intelligence Agency with the requisite information needed to strike Baitullah Mehsud, as he was a 'bad Talib'. But will Pakistan help the CIA target other wanted militants, including Mullah Nazir, Hafiz Gul Bahadur or Sirajuddin Haqqani, who are considered 'good Talibans'?

Get Rediff News in your Inbox:
Tahir Ali