Posts Tagged ‘Hakeemullah Mehsud’

The Jamestown Foundation
Publication: Terrorism Monitor Volume: 9 Issue: 34
September 9, 2011

While U.S. pressure on Pakistan for a full-scale operation against the Haqqani Network and other militant groups in the North Waziristan Agency is growing, the Pakistani military is urging the local Wazir and Dawar tribes of the North Waziristan to initiate a “Wana-like uprising” to expel foreign militants from their area and minimize the chance of the government taking military action should the situation grow worse (Daily Times [Lahore] August 18).

With the help of militants led by South Waziristan’s Maulvi Nazir, the Ahmadzai Wazir tribes of South Waziristan successfully flushed out Uzbek militants of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) from Wana and other Wazir-dominated areas of South Waziristan in a spring 2007 popular uprising sparked by the brutality of the Uzbeks. [1] Many of the Uzbek militants who arrived in the area when their bases in Afghanistan were closed in late 2001 relocated to North Waziristan after their eviction from South Waziristan.

Elders of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribes said that they would not allow fleeing Uzbeks and militants of the Mahsud tribe in their areas who might attempt to sneak in from North Waziristan if the military goes on the offensive against the Haqqani Network and other local militant groups (Daily Times, June 1).

Located between the Khost Province of eastern Afghanistan and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province of northwest Pakistan, North Waziristan is the second largest tribal region of Pakistan’s Federally Administrated Tribal Areas (FATA). It is considered today to be the epicenter not only of violence in Afghanistan and Pakistan but also a major source of international terrorism. Along with its geographic isolation, difficult terrain, and relatively stable coalition of tribal militants, the region has become the most important center of militancy in FATA because of the impunity with which militants in the area have operated. [2]

The most important militant group operating in the region is the Haqqani Network, an Afghan insurgent group led by Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani. Haqqani left his native Khost province and settled in North Waziristan as an exile during the republican Afghan government of Sardar Mohammed Daoud Khan in the early 1970s. His son Sirajuddin, who became a key insurgent leader in Afghanistan in mid 1980s, manages the network’s organization from the North Waziristan and carries out attacks on U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan (see Terrorism Monitor, March 24, 2008; August 4). [3]

The second most important North Waziristan-based militant group is led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a key militant leader known for hosting foreign fighters belonging to al-Qaeda and other Arab groups as well as the Haqqani Network (see Terrorism Monitor, April 10, 2009). Bahadur was announced as Naib Amir (deputy head) under the leadership of Baitullah Mahsud upon the formation of the 2007 Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella organization of various militant groups operating in FATA (The News [Islamabad], December 15, 2007). However, Bahadur later formed an anti-TTP bloc by joining hands with Maulvi Nazir’s South Waziristan-based group because of tribal rivalries with the Mahsuds and disagreements over TTP attacks against Pakistan security forces, stating that the bloc had been formed to defend the Wazir tribes in North Waziristan and South Waziristan (Daily Times, July 2, 2008). Bahadur and Nazir belong to the Utmanzai and Ahmadzai sub-clans of the Wazir, respectively. [4] The Haqqani Network and Bahadur are considered “good Taliban” by the Pakistan military authorities as they don’t carry out attacks inside Pakistan and focus only on Afghanistan.

Besides the Haqqani Network and Bahadur’s group, North Waziristan also provides shelter to several local and foreign militant groups, such as the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU), the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), the Islamic Army of Great Britain,  Ittehad-e-Jihad Islami (IJI), the TTP, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami, the Fidayeen-e-Islami, Harkat-ul Mujahideen, the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Taiba (The News [Islamabad] August 18). Mir Ali area and Shawal valley of North Waziristan have been a safe haven for successive waves of all sorts of militants fleeing U.S. or Pakistani military operations. [5]

The United States considers the role of the Haqqani Network and other militant groups in North Waziristan in the insurgency in Afghanistan to be among the most difficult challenges NATO faces. Due to intense American pressure, the Pakistani military is thinking of carrying out a limited operation in North Waziristan primarily targeting al-Qaeda, foreign militants and the TTP rather than the Haqqani Network (Dawn [Karachi] June 1). Because of the reluctance of Pakistan authorities to act in the region, U.S. drones have targeted the Mir Ali, Dattakhel and Miramshah areas of North Waziristan extensively, with five out of six drone strikes in Pakistan now being recorded in North Waziristan. [6]

North Waziristan elders say that the local population is very frustrated with the presence of foreign militant groups, especially the Central Asians, for their encroachment on Wazir lands and insensitivity to local tribal customs. The foreigners’ land ownership is a direct challenge to the tribal power structure of Waziristan. Unlike the Central Asians, the Arab militants of al-Qaeda never interfered in local tribal affairs. Lately some innocent people belonging to the Utmanzai Wazir tribe have been killed by foreign militants who accused them of spying on al-Qaeda and Taliban movements to direct CIA-operated drones. The murders have only created more hatred for the foreigners among local tribesmen. [7]

The tense relationship between local and foreign militant outfits operating in North Waziristan has been displayed several times in the past years, particularly in November 2006, when the IMU and IJU openly accused Bahadur and other Waziri militant commanders of betraying them and jumping into the government camp by demanding their eviction from North Waziristan (The News [Islamabad], November 12, 2006). Because of their interference in the local affairs of the territory, Central Asian militants are now compelled to stay in the Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, where they have the support of a local militant group led by Maulvi Manzoor Dawar. North Waziristan elders report that General Mehmood told elders of the Utmanzai Wazirs and Dawars that military action will be taken if the two tribes didn’t move against the foreign militants (Daily Times, August 18).

Though members of militant groups in tribal areas have almost the same anti-U.S. and pro-al-Qaeda worldview, they are not especially disciplined when it comes to tribal matters. Pakistan’s military is trying to exploit the tribal nature of Taliban militant groups operating in North Waziristan and South Waziristan. This characteristic has become apparent many times, especially when Bahadur-led militants warned the Mahsud-led Taliban in neighboring South Waziristan not to launch attacks against the Pakistan security forces and formed an anti-TTP coalition based on tribal rivalries with the Mahsuds. [8] Pakistan military officers in the region are encouraging the tribes of North Waziristan to follow the example of the Ahemdzai Wazir tribes and have announced their support of such actions. However, the situation is quite different from South Waziristan, where local Ahmadzai tribes stood united behind Maulvi Nazir. The North Waziristan situation is complicated by a lack of tribal unity. An offer of money from al-Qaeda or other sources can obstruct such uprisings in North Waziristan. As there is no consensus yet for the launch of a united front against the foreign militants as well as the TTP’s Mahsud militants, the Pakistani military is likely to assign the mission of uniting the Utmanzai Wazir and Dawar tribes to Bahadur (Daily Times, August 18).

A tribal  uprising against foreign militants in North Waziristan at the behest of the Pakistani military will not only help in flushing out the foreign militants from the territory but will also maximize the disunity among the militants and put pressure on the Mahsud militants of the TTP.  However, the Haqqani Network and al-Qaeda will obviously try to obstruct the government’s plan to incite tribal rebellion against foreign militants.

Notes:

1. Telephone interview with an elder of Ahmadzai sub-tribe, August 26, 2011; see also Terrorism Monitor, January 14, 2008.

2. Telephone interview with Ahmed Wali, a senior journalist and researcher, August 28, 2011.

3. Telephone interview with Bannu-based journalists who wished not to be named, August 26, 2011.

4. Telephone interview with an elder of the Utmanzai sub-tribe, August 26, 2011.

5. Telephone interview with Bannu-based journalists, August 26, 2011.

6. Telephone interview with Abdullah Khan, director of Conflict Monitoring Center, Islamabad, August 22, 2011.

7. Telephone interview with an elder of Utmanzai sub-tribe, August 26, 2011.

8. Telephone interview with Bannu-based journalists, August 26, 2011.

The peace truce between Sunnis and Shias in Kurram Agency is being celebrated and looked at with suspicion

By Zia Ur Rehman

The News,    27 February, 2011

Although Sunni and Shia warring tribes of Kurram Agency have agreed to end their four-year long conflict through a government-backed jirga of tribal elders, it is yet to be seen how long the deal holds ground and helps maintain normalcy in the area.

Kurram, one of Pakistan’s seven tribal agencies, borders Khost, Paktia and Nangarhar in Afghanistan and Khyber, Orakzai and North Waziristan agencies in Pakistan. Unlike in other tribal agencies of Fata, sectarian tensions are the main drivers of militancy in Kurram Agency.

“Since 1980s, deadly sectarian clashes have been taking place in Kurram. However, the situation worsened following the emergence of different groups of Taliban in South and North Waziristan, Orakzai and Khyber Agencies,” Aqeel Yousafzai, an expert on security issues in tribal areas, tells TNS. “The conflict was brought to Kurram by militant groups from North and South Waziristan and Khyber agencies in 2006. Shia tribes had also established their own lashkars (tribal militias) to defend themselves, but these lashkars are no match for the Taliban. More than 3,500 people had been killed, 50 villages torched and thousands of people displaced in sectarian clashes in Kurram between 2007 and 2010,” says Yousafzai, who has also authored two books on militancy in tribal areas.

Over the years, the Shias of Kurram accused various Pakistani and Afghan Taliban groups, including the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), of violence and blamed the Pakistan security agencies for lending support to their rival Sunni militant groups. The Sunnis had been saying that Iran was providing arms and money to the Shia militants in Kurram.

The outside militant groups active in Kurram are the TTP, the Orakzai Taliban and the Afridi Taliban which had killed hundreds of Shias and Sunnis. In October 2007, the first Waziristan Taliban lashkar, comprising 400 Mehsud militants, was sent to Kurram by the then head of the TTP, Baitullah Mehsud. Qari Hussain, an anti-Shia commander of the TTP, commanded the lashkar and torched villages and killed dozens of Shias.

After two months, Hussain returned to South Waziristan and Hakimullah Mehsud, the then TTP commander for Kurram, Khyber and Orakzai agencies, sent hundreds more militants under the command of Faqir Alam Mehsud to Kurram to fight against Shia lashkars. “Faqir Alam Mehsud, reputed for his brutalities, personally beheaded at least 100 Shias from Kurram, along with a few Sunnis for cooperating with Shias,” a Taliban fighter under his command informs TNS.

Orakzai TTP head Mullah Noor Jamal (alias Mullah Toofan) also brought hundreds of his militants to Kurram to take part in the sectarian violence. Different Afridi militant groups, including Tariq Afridi’s TTP Darra Adam Khel, Mangal Bagh’s Laskhar-e-Islam and Haji Mehboob’s Ansar-ul-Islam, also sent hundreds of militants to fights against Shias.

Although Kurram Shias are reluctant to disclose information about Shia militant groups; they have two militant groups active in Kurram — Mehdi Militia and Kurram Hizbullah.

During the last four years, the roads in Kurram Agency, especially Thal-Parachinar Road connecting Kurram with Peshawar, had remained closed and people had been trapped in their areas. The Shia community as a whole and some Sunni tribes like Mangal in Upper Kurram find it extremely difficult and risky to move out of Kurram Agency. They were not able to travel on the Thal-Parachinar road as it was controlled by Taliban militants. Shias were compelled to use only one road which runs through the Afghan cities of Khost, Gardez, Kabul and Jalalabad.

After two years of negotiations by a jirga, comprising 220 elders and politicians of Fata, a peace truce between Sunnis and Shias was announced at Parachinar on February 3. According to the agreement, all the main roads, including the Thal-Parachinar road, will be opened for traffic while safe return of the forcibly displaced tribesmen to their homes will be ensured by the government.

“The natives of Kurram have been waiting for the restoration of peace for years, and after the truce, they would live like brothers again,” says Malik Waris Khan Afridi, a former federal minister and head of the jirga. Haji Munir Orakzai and Sajid Hussain Turi, elected parliamentarians from Orakzai and Kurram agencies respectively, also played a key role in brokering the peace truce. “Tribesmen across both sects assured us of their support to the peace accord while the government will financially compensate the affected people,” Waris Afridi informs TNS.

A few days after the agreement, the TTP Kurram head, Fazal Saeed, told a press conference that his organisation would extend all-out support to the political administration and security forces to implement the peace truce and would punish violators if the government or jirga members failed to do so. “The TTP’s statement of support for peace in the area redefines the role of the militants and most dangerous villains are now becoming heroes involved in maintaining peace in the agency,” says Ashfaq Turi, an elder of Shia Turi Bangash tribe of Kurram Agency.

“Everybody is happy and celebrating the peace truce by distributing sweets and dancing the Atanh (Pashto traditional dance) in Parachinar,” a Parachinar-based journalist tells TNS.

The peace agreement came amid reports by the Pakistani and international media that the Haqqani Network (HN), a powerful Afghan militant group based in North Waziristan, had brokered the deal in return for a new safe haven and right of passage into Afghanistan. The reports of HN’s involvement had been privately confirmed by members of the jirga. International media had reported that Ibrahim Haqqani and Khalil Haqqani, sons of HN’s head Jalaluddin Haqqani, had participated in two rounds of negotiations in September 2010, but the politicians and jirga members involved in the talks had dismissed the report as “a propaganda”.

The growing number of drone attacks and American pressure on the Pakistani government to begin a military operation in North Waziristan had increased the strategic significance of Kurram agency, particularly for the TTP and the HN. Experts believe the militants will not only take refuge in this area in case of an operation in North Waziristan, but will also use the area as junction to go onward and back in tribal agencies, settled districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and provinces of Afghanistan.

The writer is a journalist and researcher and works on militancy issues.

Email: zia_red@hotmail.com

 

Despite assurances by security agencies, South Waziristan IDPs are reluctant to go back to their homes, fearing militants will strike back

By Zia Ur Rehman

The News

15 January 2010

Although the government claims military offensive against Taliban in South Waziristan has succeeded in securing the area, the displaced people are reluctant to go back to their homes, saying militants had only dispersed, not wiped out, during the operation.

South Waziristan, the restive tribal belt bordering Afghanistan, is considered traditional stronghold of militants not only belonging to defunct Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) but also to Afghan Taliban and al-Qaeda. Foreign affiliates such as groups of Uzbeks, Chechens and Tajiks are also there.

Four major military operations have been carried out in South Waziristan to clear the area from the Taliban militants since 2004. The most recent offensive — Operation Rah-e-Nijat (Path to Salvation) — was started in October last year, and is still going on. Around 400,000 local residents, largely belonging to Mehsud tribe, were displaced from the area due to this operation.

Government officials claim that the area is now completely cleared from militants and now they are sending displaced people back to their homes. But the locals are unwilling to return to their villages as they fear the militants are either hiding in mountains of the area or have escaped to adjacent tribal areas.

Most of the displaced Mehsuds, whom TNS spoke to, were not yet ready to return due to fear of security situation, damage to their houses, lack of livelihood opportunities, electricity, food and other facilities.

“It is very dangerous. If we go back to our homes, militants will be there because they are still alive and have just moved to neighbouring tribal areas,” says Munsif Mehsud, one of the displaced people who declined to go back. He had brought his extended family of 18 to Karachi and lives in a rented house in a slum near Super Highway. The displaced families said it was the fourth time they had been displaced from their homes due to operation against the militants.

“The government wants us to be taken back to our homes in military conveys. This will create security problems for us as the militants will link us with the government,” says Zafar Mehsud, another displaced person who lives in district Tank.

Three weeks ago, TTP’s militants kidnapped 23 tribesmen, who were members of a committee of displaced persons, for attending a function arranged on the occasion of December 7 visit of chief of army staff to Makeen and Ladha areas of South Waziristan.

“This is a warning to the tribal people not come to the area because we are still present in South Waziristan,” Azam Tariq, spokesperson for TTP, told the media recently, claiming that militants had seven Taliban courts functioning in the area, as well as 22 offices. Later, the militants freed the kidnapped tribesmen.

This kidnapping further threaten the government’s shaky attempts to persuade Mehsud tribesmen that the militants are defeated and that it is safe to go back to their homes in South Waziristan.

Maulana Saleh Shah, a senator from South Waziristan, when contacted by TNS, also admitted that the government had just cleared very few areas of South Waziristan which are near to FR Jandola. “Most of the area is still not declared clear from the militants by the security forces,” Shah says, adding that only the people hailing from some villages, including Chagmali and Kotkai, were returning.

According to Duniya Aslam Khan, a Public Information Assistant at the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), the government has declared 13 villages to be safe to return which are located in the lower parts of South Waziristan where weather is fairly mild in the winter. “Returning to their homes is a voluntary process and we can’t say how many people will return,” Khan says.

A local elder says that displaced Mehsuds will be watching the process of repatriation very carefully. “How the military handles and guard the first returnees will likely decide whether other people choose to go back to their homes.”

The military had declared victory over militants in South Waziristan in February last year but is since struggling to convince the refugees to go back to their homes. Experts opine that the unwillingness of displaced families to go back also highlights the difficulties the security forces face in maintaining security in the region months after they have declared victory.

A local Mehsud journalist, requesting anonymity, says the government was trying to form Mehsud lashkars (militias) or peace committee, like already formed in Bajaur and other tribal areas with support of the government. But elders of Dray Mehsud (three clans of Mehsud) were clearly refusing it from the beginning.

A few days ago, TTP spokesperson Tariq, while talking to the Associated Press, warned that his group will take severe actions against those who form such lashkars or peace committees to take on the militants.

The government has promised to give returnees a cash stipend, living essentials and assistance for rebuilding homes damaged or destroyed in the fighting, but the slow pace of compensation and reconstruction in Swat will not give Mehsud tribesmen much confidence on those claims.

“UNHCR is assisting with logistical arrangements (having set up transit centres, registration desks, hot meals, etc) and shelter support for those choosing to return as well providing transports to the returning families from Dera Ismail Khan and Tank districts to their villages in South Waziristan,” Khan says, adding that Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) is giving Rs25,000 to each family.

Senator Shah also complained that the government had also not fulfilled the promises of giving compensation to those going back because all the houses and businesses were totally destroyed in the area.

Most of the Mehsud families said that with their home destroyed, they were ready to live in tents because of cold weather. It is pertinent to mention that unlike refugees hailing from other tribal areas who lived in tents in the camps, most members of the Mehsud tribe are staying with relatives or in rented houses in Dera Ismail Khan, Tank and Karachi.

“The government has offered compensation of just Rs25,000 per family for damage to their houses and other losses which is not sufficient,” says Sher Alam, a refugee living in Peshawar. Senator Shah says he has demanded the federal government to increase the relief amount to Rs100,000.

(The writer is a researcher who works on militancy, development and human rights.)