By Zia Ur Rehman

March 28, 2015

With the law enforcement agencies’ crackdown shattering their network, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan factions have been working to form a collective front for their survival in Karachi, The New has learnt.

This decision is part of the recently announced reunification of Taliban groups at the central level. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA), in an email sent to the media recently, claimed that his faction, the TTP loyal to Maulana Fazlullah and the Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) had reunited following a joint consultative meeting between their leaders.

Weakened in Karachi

Sources and security experts familiar with the network of the Taliban in Karachi believe that after the meeting of their central leaders somewhere in the Pak-Afghan bordering area, three factions of the TTP in the city were forging an alliance for their survival.

They agree that the recent crackdown has badly disrupted the Taliban’s network in the city. Asmat Khan Wazir, an Islamabad-based independent security analyst from North Waziristan, says that the military operation, Zarb-e-Azab, under way in North Waziristan since June last year, had shattered the Taliban’s control-and-command system, affecting the activities of their Karachi factions.

“Before the operation, the Karachi Taliban ran their offices in Miramshah Bazaar, issued directives to their local leaders and threatened Pashtun businessmen and politicians,” Wazir told The News.

“The law enforcement agencies’ crackdown has also compelled them to go underground or flee to other parts of the country,” he maintained.

A Karachi-based Mehsud tribal elder, requesting anonymity, said many key Taliban commanders and supporters in the city had been killed by the law enforcement agencies, especially Rangers, after the attack on the Army Public School in Peshawar in December last year.

“We haven’t seen the Taliban killing anyone or extorting traders in the last two months. The TTP militants have disappeared and the residents of Pashtun neighbourhoods are now feeling secure,” he added.

Commenting on the recent merger of Taliban factions, the tribal elder said the TTP was adopting such tactics just to hide the fact that they had been weakened now.

“There are differences between these factions over turf and leadership issues. They cannot work together.”

 TTP factions

The TTP is not a monolith. There are four factions of the TTP operating in the city.

The TTP South Waziristan faction is led by Khan Said alias Sajna and mainly comprises Mehsud militants. The group has been operating independently after leaving the TTP in May last year.

Khan Zaman alias Goonga heads the group in Karachi but the law enforcement agencies, in the ongoing crackdown, have killed many of their key leaders and militants, forcing them to go into hiding or flee the city.

A source in the TTP South Wazirstan chapter said the key leaders of the faction killed in recent months included Abid Mucharr, Abid Chota, Zikria Mehsud, Mufti Javed, Khazan Gul, Zahidullah, Ubaidullah, Amir Zada and Khwajlak. Khan Zaman and Zawel are the only remaining important commanders of the faction in the city.

Another faction of the TTP Mehsud militants is led by Sheharyar Mehsud, who is the successor of Hakimullah Mehsud. Daud Mehsud, a former policeman in Karachi, heads the group in the city.

The group has been weakened in Karachi because of their infighting with militants of the TTP Sajna faction. Most of them have left the city.

The TTP Swat chapter is loyal to the organisation’s central chief, Maulana Fazlullah. In Karachi, their organisational set-up is very secretive and mainly involved in the killing of Awami National Party leaders and policemen in the West district.

The TTP Mohmand faction that renamed itself the TTP-JA after parting ways with the TTP last year is led by Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid Khurasani. The group has been weakened because of the killing of their key leaders and supporters by the law enforcement agencies.

The Sajna-led group is not part of the recent reunification. The three others factions have agreed to work together in Karachi. However, the Bagh-led LI has no organisational set-up in the city.