Archive for the ‘CTC Sentinel’ Category

ctc sentinel


By Zia Ur Rehman

May 29, 2014

On  March 1, 2014, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Pakistani government agreed to a month-long temporary cease-fire to negotiate a peace deal. A few days after the announcement, two little-known militant groups—Ahrar-ul-Hind and Ansar-ul-Mujahidin—carried out two terrorist attacks in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and Hangu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, killing dozens of people.[1] Although the cease-fire ended in April due to disagreements between the Pakistani government and the TTP, the attacks by Ahrar-ul-Hind and Ansar-ul-Mujahidin appeared to reveal that there are factions within the TTP that strictly oppose any negotiation with the government.[2]

This article provides a brief background on the attacks during the recent peace talks, profiles Ahrar-ul-Hind and Ansar-ul-Mujahidin, and assesses the overall implications of potential splintering within the TTP.

Violation of the Peace Talks
Although some analysts expected a Pakistani military operation against TTP strongholds following a bloody start to 2014, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif instead announced on January 29 that his government would pursue peace talks with the TTP.[3] Sharif named a four-member committee to facilitate the talks. In turn, the TTP also nominated a committee for dialogue with the government.[4]

After several meetings between the committees from both sides, the TTP announced a month-long cease-fire on March 1 and directed all groups working under the umbrella of the TTP to honor the truce with the government and to refrain from all “jihadist” activities during this period.[5] In response, the Pakistani government also announced a cease-fire.[6]

On March 3, however, an attack at the Islamabad district court killed 11 people, including a session judge.[7] Ahrar-ul-Hind, a little-known militant group, claimed responsibility.[8] The group’s spokesman, Asad Mansoor, told reporters that they are not bound to follow a cease-fire of any kind with the Pakistani government. “We were a part of TTP earlier but now we operate independently,” the spokesman said.[9]

Then, on March 5, a roadside bomb struck a paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) personnel convey in Hangu District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province, killing six FC personnel.[10] Another militant group, Ansar-ul-Mujahidin, claimed responsibility.[11] Abu Bassir, the organization’s spokesperson, said that the attack was in reaction to the killing of Taliban fighters in drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas.[12] He also added that his group is not part of the TTP and therefore is not bound by the cease-fire.[13]

Following the attacks, media and civil society groups made growing demands for a full-scale military operation against the TTP. The TTP leadership, however, publicly expressed frustration that some militant groups had not abided by the cease-fire.[14] In a March 3 statement, TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid denied any involvement in the Islamabad court attack, saying that the TTP was struggling to enforce Shari`a in Pakistan and that they considered a violation of the cease-fire “un-Islamic.”[15] He said that anyone belonging to the Taliban would be questioned if found guilty of any violent incident during the cease-fire.[16]

Sources said that the TTP leadership formed a special cell to identify the militants associated with Ahrar-ul-Hind and Ansar-ul-Mujahidin.[17] Professor Ibrahim, a member of the Taliban’s negotiation committee, confirmed that the TTP leadership was chasing down the little-known groups—especially Ahrar-ul-Hind.[18] Maulana Yousaf Shah, another member of the Taliban’s negotiation committee, said that the TTP leaders would first try to persuade the splinter groups to abide by the cease-fire. If the groups refused, said Shah, then the TTP would take strict action against them.[19]

It is not clear what became of these threats, although by April the cease-fire was no longer in effect after the TTP accused the Pakistani government of killing 50 TTP activists.[20] Nevertheless, the formation of Ahrar-ul-Hind and Ansar-ul-Mujahidin has important implications for future peace deals between the TTP and the Pakistani government.

A Profile of Ahrar-ul-Hind
Ahrar-ul-Hind first entered the spotlight on February 9, 2014, when Asad Mansoor, the group’s spokesman, issued a statement to media outlets declaring that the group would not accept any peace agreement short of the complete enforcement of Shari`a in Pakistan.[21] On February 14, the group released another statement rebuking those who support peace talks before the implementation of Shari`a.[22]

Mansoor claimed that Ahrar-ul-Hind is headed by Maulana Umar Qasmi.[23] A Newsweek Pakistan report suggested that Qasmi, from Jhang district of Punjab Province, was associated with Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a banned sectarian militant group.[24] Qasmi was also reportedly enrolled at Usman-o-Ali seminary, run by Maulana Masood Azhar, the head of the banned Jaysh-i-Muhammad group, in Bahawalpur.[25] Apart from the TTP and Jaysh-i-Muhammad, Ahrar-ul-Hind reportedly has ties with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Harkat-ul-Mujahidin and Jundullah.[26]

Although few details have emerged about Ahrar-ul-Hind, one militant source said that many of its members are from Punjab Province.[27] Several eyewitnesses to the Islamabad court attack in Islamabad reported hearing the militants speaking Punjabi to one another.[28] This suggests that the group may have splintered from TTP Punjab,[29] which is headed by Asmatullah Muawiya.[30] Muawiya has been openly engaged in the recent peace talks with the government.[31]

Some reports suggest that Qasmi is now based in Mohmand Agency, a tribal region situated on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area.[32] A Taliban commander in the tribal areas said that Ahrar-ul-Hind had also contacted militants loyal to a faction formerly headed by Badar Mansoor, al-Qa`ida’s chief in Pakistan who was killed in a drone strike in February 2012, to join their group.[33]

According to a commander of a Taliban group, the group derived its name of “Ahrar” because the Ahraris were against the formation of Pakistan, and they believed that the entire subcontinent was their homeland.[34] Explaining Ahrar-ul-Hind’s objectives, the commander said that the group plans to expand the fight to “the remaining part of the subcontinent, India and Occupied Kashmir.”[35]

The North Waziristan-based Ansar-ul-Mujahidin has existed since at least March 2013. Reports citing government officials and intelligence information suggest that Mufti Shafique, a leader of the TTP Gandapur group,[36] has ties to Ansar-ul-Mujahidin,[37] and that Uzbek fighters are also part of the group.[38]

The group claimed credit for a double suicide bombing on a Shi`a mosque in Parachinar town of Kurram Agency on July 26, 2013, which killed at least 57 people.[39] Ansar-ul-Mujahidin also claimed responsibility for three suicide attacks on different military checkpoints in North Waziristan Agency in 2013.[40]

Ansar-ul-Mujahidin claimed the October 16, 2013, killing of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa law minister Israr Gandapur, along with nine other people, in Dera Ismail Khan, in retaliation for the death of two of their men during an attack on Dera Ismail Khan jail on July 29, 2013.[41] Taliban militants freed 248 militants from the jail, including 48 high profile militants from the TTP and Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.[42] The TTP previously claimed responsibility for that same jailbreak. Security officials initially said that they were trying to determine whether Ansar-ul-Mujahidin is part of the TTP, or if the claim was a TTP tactic to avoid responsibility.[43]

Ansar-ul-Mujahidin had also claimed responsibility for the October 11, 2013, suicide attack on a security convoy in the Wana area of South Waziristan that killed two security officials, saying that the attack was a response to the September 6 drone attack in North Waziristan Agency that killed the Haqqani network’s key leader, Mullah Sangin Zadran.[44]

In December 2013, Ansar-ul-Mujahidin also warned Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf party chief Imran Khan and Jamiat-i-Ulama-i-Islam (Sami faction) chief Maulana Sami-ul-Haq against championing the polio vaccination campaign. “Khan and Haq should refrain themselves from the anti-polio campaign,” said Abu Bassir at that time, threatening that “at the moment, their focus is toward Nawaz Sharif’s government, but they will turn their guns on Khan and Haq if they do not relent.”[45] On November 9, 2013, the group also directed a message to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother and Chief Minister of Punjab Province Shahbaz Sharif, threatening to kill them with suicide bombers as revenge for the November 1 death of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone strike.[46]

Attacks carried out by Ahrar-ul-Hind and Ansar-ul-Mujahidin have two possible implications.

First, some analysts believe that the Pakistani government’s effort to achieve a peace deal with the TTP has exposed a split in the group, suggesting that it has lost influence over its various factions. The TTP, for example, is not a monolith; it is composed of many different groups. According to one general estimate, 54 militant groups operate in the tribal areas and settled districts, with 43 of them operating in North Waziristan alone.[47] When the government entered into peace negotiations with the TTP, according to this theory, some militant groups began carrying out attacks on their own for reasons varying from tribal affiliation, sectarian views, or ties with foreign militants such as al-Qa`ida.[48] Therefore, the splintering of the TTP means that even a successful peace deal with the group will not end militancy in the tribal regions.

Second, other analysts and police officials allege that the TTP leadership purposely allowed various “so-called” splinter groups to continue with their subversive activities to place pressure on Pakistan while the main TTP factions publicly engaged in the cease-fire. According to this theory, the TTP used the peace talks and the cease-fire to regroup for future attacks against the Pakistani government.[49] Moreover, on May 28, 2014, the TTP Waliur Rehman faction, led by Khan Said (also known as Sajna), announced its separation from the TTP, alleging that the current Maulana Fazlullah-led TTP is bombing public places using fake names to avoid responsibility.[50]


Even if Ahrar-ul-Hind and Ansar-ul-Mujahidin operate outside the influence of the TTP leadership, they could have support from al-Qa`ida and other anti-state elements, especially foreign militant outfits.[51] Returning normalcy to the Pakistani tribal areas is not in the interests of foreign militant groups due to their ongoing operations in neighboring Afghanistan. Experts believe that foreign militant groups, especially al-Qa`ida and Uzbek militants, are worried that a peace deal might close their safe heavens in North Waziristan.[52]

While such splits among militant groups may be a reason for the Pakistani government to rejoice when combating them militarily, the large number of distinct and competing armed actors suggests that putting an end to violent insurgency through dialogue will remain a distant possibility even if the government and the TTP agree on a future peace deal.[53]

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and researcher who covers militancy and security issues in Pakistan. He has written for the Friday Times, New York Times, Dawn, The Jamestown Foundation and The News. He is also author of the book Karachi in Turmoil.

[1] Malik Asad and Muawar Azeem, “Judge, 10 Others Slain in Islamabad Court Attack,” Dawn, March 4, 2014; Ahmed Naveed Zafar, “Four FC Personnel Martyred in Hangu Bomb Attack,” Pakistan Tribune, March 5, 2014.

[2] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “TTP Decided Not to Extend Ceasefire,” Dawn, April 16, 2014.

[3] “PM Sharif Announces Another Push for Taliban Peace Talks,” Dawn, January 29, 2014.

[4] Ibid.

[5] “Pakistani Taliban Announce Month-Long Ceasefire,” Dawn, March 2, 2014.

[6] Muhammad Anees, “Government Announces Ceasefire Following TTP,” The News Tribe, March 2, 2014.

[7] “Judge, 10 Others Killed in Islamabad Blasts, Firing,” Dawn, March 3, 2014.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Azad Syed, “Hello, We Are Ahrarul Hind, We Attacked Islamabad,” The News International, March 4, 2014.

[10] “Bomb Kills Six Near Hangu,” Newsweek Pakistan, March 5, 2014.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Hasan Abdullah, “TTP Frustrated at ‘Defiance’ Over Ceasefire,” Dawn, March 6, 2014.

[15] Tahir Khan, “Clear Their Name: TTP Denies Hand in Capital Assault,” Express Tribune, March 4, 2014.

[16] Ibid.

[17] “TTP Investigating About Ahrarul Hind: Ibrahim,” Pakistan Today, March 16, 2014.

[18] Ibid.

[19] “Taliban nay Ahrarul Hind Jaisi Tanzeemo ka koj lagaliya,” Daily Nai Baat, March 10, 2014.

[20] Sherazi, “TTP Decided Not to Extend Ceasefire.”

[21] Ismail Khan, “Spoilers in the Game,” Dawn, March 4, 2014.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Khaled Ahmed, “The Coming Apocalypse,” Newsweek Pakistan, April 1, 2014.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid.

[26] Asim Qadeem Rana, “TTP, Ahrar-ul-Hind Ate and Slept Together,” The Nation, March 6, 2014.

[27] Sajid Tarakzai, “Shadowy Militant Splinter Group Threaten Pakistan Peace Talks,” Agence France-Presse, March 9, 2014.

[28] Ibid.

[29] TTP Punjab, also called the Punjabi Taliban, is a loose conglomeration of members of different banned militant groups of Punjabi origin who have developed connections to the TTP and al-Qa`ida.

[30] Fasihur Rehman Khan, “Qaeda Now Relying on Punjabi Taliban Instead of Pashtuns,” The Nation, February 24, 2014.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ahmed.

[33] Tarakzai.

[34] Rana.

[35] Ibid.

[36] The TTP Gandapur group is associated with the central TTP and they operate in Kolachi and other neighboring areas of Dera Ismail Khan District of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

[37] Muhammad Irfan Mughal, “Shadowy Groups Claim Killing KP Minister,” Dawn, October 20, 2013.

[38] Amir Mir, “Ansarul Mujahideen is Part and Parcel of TTP,” The News International, March 6, 2014.

[39] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Anti-Drone Militant Group Claims Parachinar Twin Blasts,” Dawn, July 27, 2013.

[40] Ibid.

[41] “Pakistan Jailbreak: Taliban Free 248 in Dera Ismail Khan,” BBC, July 30, 2013.

[42] Ibid.

[43] Mughal.

[44] Zulfiqar Ali, “Act of Revenge: Ansarul Mujahideen Claims Responsibility of Wana Blast,” Express Tribune, October 13, 2013.

[45] Nazar ul Islam, “Militants Warn Khan, Haq Against Police Campaign,” Newsweek Pakistan, December 19, 2013.

[46] Mir.

[47] Khan, “Spoilers in the Game.”

[48] Daud Khattak, ‘Taliban Turf Wars Block Peace,” Foreign Policy, March 5, 2014; Mehreen Zahra-Malik, “Violent Splinter Groups Mars Peace Deal with Pakistan Taliban,” Reuters, March 7, 2014.

[49] Tarakzai.

[50] These details are based on an official press release sent to this author from Azam Tariq, the spokesman of the TTP Waliur Rehman faction, on May 28, 2014.

[51] Zahra-Malik.

[52] Personal interview, Raees Ahmed, Karachi-based security analyst, May 23, 2014.

[53] Khattak.


ctc sentinel

Author : Zia Ur Rehman

September 24, 2013

More than two years since the beginning of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, Syria has become an attractive destination for Sunni foreign fighters.[1] Al-Qa`ida has exploited the Syrian civil war, and hundreds of fighters from various Muslim countries have traveled to Syria to fight with al-Qa`ida or one of its affiliated groups, such as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Jabhat al-Nusra.[2] For its part, various Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) commanders have claimed to have sent militants to Syria to join the fighting against the al-Assad regime.[3]

This article examines the presence of the TTP in Syria and the factors behind the group’s possible participation in the Syrian civil war. It also looks at the TTP’s propaganda toward the al-Assad regime, their global outreach and the impact of the Syrian war in Pakistan.

Reports of TTP fighters in Syria : 

Recent media reports and interviews with TTP militants suggest that the Pakistani Taliban have sent militants to fight alongside rebels in Syria. Mohammad Amin, described by the BBC as the TTP’s coordinator for Syrian affairs, said that the TTP have established a base in Syria with the help of Arab fighters who had previously fought in Afghanistan.[4] The purpose of the base, Amin said, is to assess the “ongoing jihad” in Syria and coordinate joint operations with Syrian militants.[5] Another TTP senior commander said that the decision to send Pakistani fighters to Syria came at the appeal of their “Arab friends.”[6]

Separately, a mid-level TTP commander said that the TTP are prepared to help Muslims worldwide and determined to provide manpower support to ease the hardships of Syria’s Sunni Muslim community.[7] He claimed that the Iranian regime is sending Pakistani Shi`a fighters to Syria through Iran and Iraq to join al-Assad’s forces to suppress Syria’s majority Sunni Muslim population.[8] Although there are no confirmed reports that Pakistani Shi`a fighters have shown up on the battlefield in Syria, Shi`a scholars in Iran have issued fatawa (religious decrees) directing their followers to fight in Syria.[9] Moreover, Shi`a militant leaders fighting in Syria and those in charge of recruitment in Iraq claim that the number of volunteers has increased dramatically since the fatawa were issued.[10]

The network sending Pakistani Sunni fighters to Syria is jointly run by the TTP and the banned sectarian group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), both of which are affiliated with al-Qa`ida.[11] The network has reportedly sent between 100-150 fighters.[12] Abdul Rashid Abbasi, a close associate of TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, said that 120 fighters are already in Syria where they are under the command-and-control structure of al-Qa`ida in Syria.[13] The leaders of this network are Usman Ghani, a former LJ commander, and Alimullah Umry, a TTP commander from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.[14]

According to al-Jazira, Pakistani militants in Syria fight under the platform of Katibat Muhajiroon, a Latakia-based jihadist group solely composed of foreign militants belonging to various Islamic and European countries and led by a Libyan, Abu Jaafar il Libi.[15] The Pakistani groups that have sent fighters to Syria include the TTP, the LJ and the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group.[16] The TTP also asked its commanders in Mohmand, Bajaur, Khyber, Orakzai and Waziristan tribal agencies to enlist new fighters to participate in the Syrian war.[17]

On July 31, 2013, an Urdu-language jihadist forum posted an authentic video confirming the presence of TTP fighters in Syria for the first time.[18] The video, produced by the ISIL, showed a short clip of 10-20 TTP fighters on the ground in Syria.[19] Additionally, a media report in September claimed that 30 bodies of Pakistani jihadists killed in Syria have been sent back to Pakistan, the majority of whom were associated with the LJ and the TTP’s Punjab faction.[20]

Despite these claims, however, other reports state that the TTP’s leadership has rejected suggestions that they are sending militants to Syria. One TTP leader told reporters that some of their fighters have traveled to Syria independently, but that the TTP’s focus remained in Pakistan. He said that while the TTP supports the Syrian rebels, the TTP have their own targets in the immediate region.[21] The Pakistani government has also rejected claims that Pakistani militants have joined the war in Syria.[22] The Syrian National Council called the news of Pakistani fighters traveling to Syria as part of a “systematic” campaign by pro-al-Assad forces to smear the rebels.[23]

The Pakistani Taliban’s Global Outreach : 

It is not a surprise, however, that Pakistani militants have joined the war in Syria. Pakistanis have become involved in international jihadist violence in recent decades, and militants from Pakistan have fought in several regions, especially in Afghanistan, Central Asia and the Balkans.[24] The TTP work in a close alliance with al-Qa`ida, and their recent dispatch of fighters to Syria shows their desire to play a role in foreign jihadist theaters.[25] In a January 2013 video, TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, while discussing the organization’s post 2014 objectives, described the TTP as an “international” organization.[26] When asked about the uprisings in Arab Spring countries, Hakimullah said, “We support them and we will aid them. If they need our blood, our life; if they need our people, we are ready for every type of assistance so that the democratic and secular system [in Arab nations] comes to an end.”[27]

There are other examples of Pakistani militants joining foreign conflicts. Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou warned in June 2012 that jihadist fighters from Pakistan and Afghanistan were training militants in northern Mali.[28] Yemeni intelligence sources claimed that al-Qa`ida was bringing Pakistani explosives experts into Yemen, and that one of them, Ragaa Bin Ali, was killed in a drone strike in Yemen in 2013.[29] The TTP also sent Faisal Shahzad, a young Pakistani who had been living in the United States, on a mission to bomb New York’s Times Square in May 2010, a plot that ultimately failed.[30]

The TTP have also threatened to attack Myanmar to avenge crimes against the Muslim Rohingya population, and pledged to send fighters to Kashmir to wage a struggle for the implementation of Shari`a in India.[31] Several Pakistani fighters fought in the Bosnian civil war in 1992-1995, and in the Nagorno-Karabakh war in 1988-1994 on the side of Azerbaijan.[32] Some fighters also participated in the recent war in Iraq.[33

Implications : 

As Pakistani militants increasingly view the war in Syria through a sectarian lens, security analysts believe that the conflict could exacerbate Sunni-Shi`a tensions in Pakistan.[34] Since 1989, sectarian fighting has claimed thousands of lives in Pakistan, mostly from the Shi`a community.[35] Pakistan has experienced a sharp resurgence in sectarian violence in the last decade, which can be traced to the rise of the Pakistani Taliban in the mid-2000s and the organization’s growing ties to banned militant sectarian outfits in Pakistan, such as the LJ.[36] The TTP, the LJ and affiliated sectarian groups view the Shi`a as heretics, and they regularly attack them.[37]

This sectarian tension partly explains the movement of fighters from Pakistan to Syria. It has also reshaped the TTP’s propaganda toward the Shi`a community in general.[38] A TTP-linked leader said that they have planned more attacks against the Shi`a community in Pakistan to seek revenge for attacks by Shi`a and Alawites against Sunnis in Syria and Iraq.[39] Tehreek-ul-Ansar, a wing of the TTP, claimed responsibility for the July 26, 2013, twin suicide attacks in Parachinar town of Kurram Agency that killed 57 Shi`a, saying that the operation was in revenge for the “killing of Sunnis in Syria.”[40]

Tactically, it is not immediately clear how the small Pakistani contingent in Syria, used to fighting in the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border region, could help rebels in the streets of Syrian cities.[41] Analysts, however, believe that the Pakistani militants could provide bomb-making skills, and guerrilla warfare and suicide bombing training to Syrian militants.[42] Most Pakistani fighters are poorly educated, under employed and marginalized youth, and it is feared that al-Qa`ida’s leadership in Syria could easily motivate them by paying money for more violence.[43]

The TTP and al-Qa`ida have a symbiotic relationship, and sending Pakistani militants to Syria will likely be seen as an act of loyalty toward al-Qa`ida’s affiliates.[44] This mutual cooperation likely gives the TTP access to al-Qa`ida’s global terrorist network and the operational experience of its members.[45]

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and researcher who covers militancy and security issues in Pakistan. He has written for the Friday Times, The Jamestown Foundation, the New York Times, The News International and The National. He is also the author of the book Karachi in Turmoil.

[1] Personal interview, Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, a BBC journalist based in Islamabad, August 8, 2013.

[2] Bruce Riedel, “Al Qaeda is Back,” Daily Beast, July 26, 2013.

[3] Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, “Pakistan Taliban ‘Sets up a Base in Syria,’” BBC, July 12, 2013.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Maria Golovnina and Jibran Ahmad, “Pakistan Taliban Set Up Camps in Syria, Join Anti-Assad War,” Reuters, July 14, 2013.

[7] Personal interview, TTP commander who identified himself as Omar because he was not authorized to speak to the media, August 5, 2013.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Suadad al-Salhy, “Syria War Widens Rift Between Shi’ite Clergy in Iraq, Iran,” Reuters, July 20, 2013.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Zarar Khan and Sebastian Abbot, “Islamic Militants Leave Pakistan to Fight in Syria,” Associated Press, July 14, 2013; Shoaib-ur-Rehman Siddiqui, “Taliban Joining Syria Conflict?” Business Recorder, September 1, 2013.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Saima Mohsin and Joe Sterling, “Syrian Opposition Questions Taliban Rebel Role,” CNN, July 19, 2013; “Islamic Militants Stream Out of Pakistan in Growing Numbers to Fight in Syria,” Associated Press, July 14, 2013.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Rania Abouzeid, “Inside the Battle for Assad’s Heartland,” al-Jazira, August 28, 2013; Rania Abouzeid, “On Syria’s Front Lines: A Night in the Field Clinic,” al-Jazira, August 28, 2013.

[16] Personal interview, North Waziristan-based journalist who requested anonymity for security reasons, August 8, 2013.

[17] Zahir Shah Sherazi, “First Batch of Fighters Reaches Syria, Confirms Pakistan Taliban,” Dawn, July 16, 2013.

[18] “Video Confirms Pakistani Taliban’s Presence In Syria,” The Middle East Media Research Institute, August 1, 2013.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Aqeel Yousafzai, “Taliban se muzakraat Hukmaran band gali mai,” Hum Shehri [Lahore], September 9-15, 2013.

[21] “Pakistan Taliban Say No shift to Syria,” Fox News, July 16, 2013.

[22] “Pakistan Denies Reports of Taliban Cell in Syria,” Dawn, July 16, 2013.

[23] Saima Mohsin and Joe Sterling, “Syrian Opposition Questions Taliban Rebel Role,” CNN, July 19, 2013.

[24] Mujeeb, “Pakistan Taliban ‘Sets up a Base in Syria.’”

[25] Personal interview, Aqeel Yousafzai, author of several books on militancy, Peshawar, Pakistan, August 2013.

[26] “In New Video, Taliban Commanders Discuss Jihad Against America And The ‘Crusader-Zionist Alliance’; Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Described As International Organization,” The Middle East Media Research Institute, January 9, 2013.

[27] Ibid.

[28] “Afghans, Pakistanis Training Militants in Mali: Niger,” Dawn, June 8, 2012.

[29] “Al Qaeda Bringing Pakistani Explosive Experts to Yemen, Claims Official,” Dawn, August 10, 2013.

[30] Andrew Clark and Declan Walsh, “Taliban Behind Times Square Plot, Says US,” Guardian, May 9, 2010.

[31] “Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Threaten Myanmar Over Rohingya,” Express Tribune, July 26, 2012; “Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan Pledges to Fight in Kashmir, Implement Sharia in India,” Indian Express, January 8, 2013.

[32] Mujeeb, “Pakistan Taliban ‘Sets up a Base in Syria.’”

[33] Personal interview, Aqeel Yousafzai, author of several books on militancy, Peshawar, Pakistan, August 2013.

[34] Personal interview, Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, a BBC journalist based in Islamabad, August 8, 2013.

[35] “Sectarian Violence in Pakistan 1989-2013,” South Asia Terrorism Portal,  undated.

[36] Huma Yusuf, “Sectarian Violence: Pakistan’s Greatest Security Threat?” Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre, July 2012.

[37] Banned Shi`a militant groups in Pakistan, such as Sipah-i-Muhammad Pakistan (SMP), target the Sunni community as retribution. See personal interview, Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, a BBC journalist based in Islamabad, August 8, 2013; Faraz Khan, “Sectarian Hit-Men Move from Killing Individuals to Targeting Families: Police,” Express Tribune, September 28, 2012.

[38] Personal interview, North Waziristan-based journalist who requested anonymity for security reasons, August 8, 2013.

[39] “Parachinar Bombings: Death Toll Rises to 57,” Pakistan Today, July 27, 2013.

[40] Ibid.

[41] Jason Burke, “Syria Conflict: Why Pakistani Taliban is Pledging Support for Rebels,” Guardian, July 14, 2013.

[42] Personal interview, North Waziristan-based journalist who requested anonymity for security reasons, August 8, 2013.

[43] Burke.

[44] Personal interview, North Waziristan-based journalist who requested anonymity for security reasons, August 8, 2013.

[45] Personal interview, Aqeel Yousafzai, author of several books on militancy, Peshawar, Pakistan, August 2013

ctc sentinel

Author : Zia Ur Rehman

May 23, 2013

In the run-up to Pakistan’s general elections in May 2013, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants displayed their might in the country’s largest city of Karachi. On May 3, the TTP assassinated Sadiq Zaman Khattak, a candidate from the secular Awami National Party (ANP).[1] On May 11, election day, TTP militants tried to assassinate ANP candidate Amanullah Mehsud by detonating a powerful bomb that killed 11 people in the city’s Landhi neighborhood.[2]

Far from their traditional home in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP), TTP militants have increasingly moved to this bustling commercial hub to escape Pakistani military operations and U.S. drone strikes. Although the TTP’s movement to Karachi has been visible since at least 2009,[3] the group began to escalate violent activities in June 2012, threatening to destabilize one of Pakistan’s preeminent cities—home to the country’s central bank and stock exchange.[4] Today, evidence suggests that entire Pashtun neighborhoods in Karachi are under the influence of TTP militants.[5] In October 2012, a report submitted to Pakistan’s Supreme Court claimed that 7,000 TTP militants have infiltrated Karachi.[6]

This article identifies the various TTP factions operating in the city, explains how the TTP uses extortion to raise funds in Karachi, shows how the group is targeting secular political parties and law enforcement, and then reveals the implications of these developments. It finds that the TTP has increased its influence in Karachi and is escalating violent activities—a trend that could negatively impact Karachi’s economy and put the city’s security at risk.

The TTP’s Karachi Network
Since 2009, TTP militants have moved from FATA and the KP to Karachi. Security analysts attribute this migration to Pakistan’s military operations in the country’s northwest as well as increasingly frequent and deadly U.S. drone strikes in FATA.[7] Karachi is attractive to the TTP because it is Pakistan’s largest city—with approximately 20 million people—and is home to many different ethnic and linguistic groups, making it easier to operate clandestinely.[8] More significantly, approximately five million Pashtuns[9]—the ethnic group to which almost all Taliban belong—live in Karachi, and tribal militants can find sanctuaries in Pashtun neighborhoods.[10] A number of other militant groups operate in the city—such as Jaysh-i-Muhammad, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Jammatul Furqan, Harkat-ul-Jihad-Islami, and Jundullah—some of which are sectarian in nature and generally share the TTP’s more radical outlook.[11] In the early stages of the TTP’s movement to Karachi, the group’s primary purpose was for fundraising, as well as rest and recuperation.[12] Beginning in June 2012, however, the group escalated its violent fundraising tactics and increasingly attacked secular politicians and law enforcement personnel.[13]

As TTP militants moved into Karachi, they organized into three factions: the Mehsud faction, the Swat faction and the Mohmand faction. All three factions operate from Pashtun neighborhoods in Karachi.[14] These areas include Ittehad Town, Mingophir, Kunwari Colony, Pashtun Abad, Pipri, Gulshen-e-Buner, Metrovele, Pathan Colony, Frontier Colony and settlements in the Sohrab Goth area.[15]

The most powerful TTP faction in Karachi is dominated by the Mehsud tribe of South Waziristan. The TTP Mehsud faction in Karachi is organizationally divided into two groups: one is loyal to TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud, and the second one reports to TTP South Waziristan chief Waliur Rehman Mehsud.[16] Both leaders belong to the Mehsud tribe, and within the TTP they each have their own militias but share the same agenda.[17]

The leadership structure of the TTP Mehsud faction in Karachi is relatively unknown. TTP militants and Mehsud tribal elders, however, claim that Hakimullah Mehsud appointed Qari Yar Muhammad as the TTP’s Karachi chief and Sher Khan as the operational commander.[18] Waliur Rehman Mehsud reportedly appointed Khan Zaman Mehsud as his Karachi commander.[19] Other Karachi commanders for Waliur Rehman’s faction include Naimatullah Mehsud, Abid Mehsud and Ghazan Gul.[20] Naimatullah Mehsud, the chief for Sohrab Goth, was killed in the Lasi Goth area of Sohrab Goth during a Pakistani paramilitary operation on April 5, 2013.[21] His successor is unknown.

Both TTP Mehsud factions are active in Mehsud tribe dominated suburban neighborhoods in Karachi.[22] Before June 2012, these militants operated under the cover of political and religious parties to avoid the attention of law enforcement agencies, but now they have brazenly formed several organizations in Pashtun neighborhoods. These organizations, such as the Sohrab Goth-based Insaf Aman Committee (Committee for Justice and Peace), are increasingly arbitrating small disputes among Mehsud tribesmen over property, family feuds, and business matters according to Shari`a (Islamic law).[23] Due to the long delays of working within Pakistan’s state judicial system, some find the TTP’s arbitration methods more attractive.[24]

Another Taliban faction in Karachi is largely comprised of militants from the Swat Valley who are loyal to TTP Swat chief Maulana Fazlullah. The commander for the Swat militants in Karachi is unknown, but anti-Taliban elders in Swat allege that the Karachi-based group is mainly led by Ibn-e-Aqeel (also known as Khog) and Sher Muhammad (also known as Yaseen).[25] Both of these men are wanted by the authorities in Swat. TTP commander Ibn-e-Amin established the Karachi chapter of the TTP’s Swat faction three and a half years ago in the tribal areas.[26] A U.S. drone killed Ibn-e-Amin in the Tirah Valley of Khyber Agency in December 2010.[27]

Beginning in 2011, Swat militants killed dozens of anti-Taliban elders and political figures from Swat who were traveling to or living in Karachi.[28] In June 2012, however, they began to kill local ANP leaders in Karachi as well.[29] Sher Shah Khan, a parliamentarian elected from Swat, alleged in 2012 that “a number of other Swati political and social figures have also been killed in the streets of Karachi by militants loyal to TTP Swat chief Maulana Fazlullah.”[30]  Unlike the Mehsud faction, however, the Swat faction does not offer arbitration services to settle family and business disputes in Karachi.[31]

The Mohmand chapter of the TTP has also formed its own faction in Karachi, where it primarily extorts workers who have families in Mohmand Agency.[32] TTP Mohmand chief Abdul Wali (popularly known as Omar Khalid) and spokesman Ikramullah Mohmand developed the network to raise money.[33] Qari Shakeel, the deputy to Abdul Wali, calls the Karachi workers himself, threatening to kill their relatives in Mohmand if they refuse to pay protection money.[34] The network, led by TTP commander Haleem Syed in Karachi, has already killed several traders who refused to pay.[35]

TTP Extortion Schemes in Karachi
Since June 2012, the TTP factions in Karachi have become more brazen and violent. Dozens of truckers in Karachi whose families live in South Waziristan, Mohmand and Khyber tribal agencies have paid tens of thousands of dollars during the last year to free their family members from TTP militants.[36] As part of these extortion rackets, TTP militants often threaten a Karachi-based worker, saying that their fellow militants in FATA will kidnap or kill the worker’s family unless “protection” or ransom money is paid. Demands range from $10,000 to $50,000.[37] Many of these incidents go unreported due to threats from TTP militants.[38] In addition to these extortion rackets and kidnap-for-ransom schemes, Pashtun truckers who carry supplies from the port of Karachi on the Indian Ocean to NATO forces in Afghanistan have been forced to pay thousands of dollars in protection money to avoid being targeted by the TTP.[39]

Some argue that the TTP escalated its fundraising efforts due to a shortage of money in the wake of anti-terrorism financing measures taken by Pakistani authorities, which have restricted the TTP’s sources of income from abroad.[40] In response, TTP leaders in the tribal regions reportedly directed their Karachi-based operatives to collect funds through extortion, kidnap-for-ransom, as well as bank heists.[41] In the first four months of 2013, for example, 11 bank robberies netted approximately $800,000, and authorities believe that most of the robberies were aimed at helping the TTP as well as other groups such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi.[42]

The TTP leadership in FATA monitors the fundraising campaign closely, and has punished operatives who embezzle funds. In early 2013, TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud reportedly ordered his men to kill his former Karachi leader, Sher Zaman Mehsud, for stealing money that was collected through extortion and bank robberies.[43]

Political Killings and Attacks on Law Enforcement
During the past year, the TTP has increased operations targeting secular political parties and law enforcement personnel. In June 2012, TTP operatives sent a message to the ANP’s local leaders demanding that they quit the party, take down ANP flags and posters, and close their offices.[44] According to the ANP, the TTP has killed 70 ANP leaders in Karachi since that warning.[45] Approximately 44 ANP party offices have been closed across the city, and several party leaders have left Karachi and moved to Islamabad due to persistent TTP threats.[46] In addition to targeting the ANP, the TTP has also threatened the secular Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a political party that largely represents the Urdu-speaking Muslim community.[47]

The TTP has not, however, targeted Karachi’s religious parties, such as Jamiat-i-Ulama-i-Islam-Fazlur (JUI-F). According to JUI-F candidate Mullah Karim Abid, who spoke to reporters before the May 11 polls, their campaign was not affected by the Taliban.[48] When asked about the TTP’s strong-arm tactics in the city, he replied, “Taliban? What Taliban? There are no real Taliban on the ground. All these things are fabricated by authorities.”[49]

During the recent election campaign, TTP militants attacked rallies and offices of the ANP, MQM and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) in various parts of Karachi, killing and injuring dozens of people.[50] The TTP placed pamphlets at mosques and at polling stations, warning Pakistanis not to vote for the ANP, PPP and MQM candidates.[51] The group assassinated an ANP candidate on May 3, and tried to assassinate an ANP candidate on election day.[52]

TTP militants in Karachi are also targeting law enforcement. Police believe that the TTP has a “hit list” that includes police officers who have been involved in the arrests and deaths of TTP commanders and militants.[53] These police officials include Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Chaudhry Aslam Khan, Superintendent of Police Mazhar Mashwani, SSP Raja Omar Khitab, SSP Khurram Waris and SSP Farooq Awan.[54] Taliban militants have attacked the Sohrab Goth and Mangophir police stations several times, while dozens of law enforcement personnel have been killed in areas of Karachi under TTP influence.[55] According to former Sindh Police Chief Fayyaz Leghari, TTP militants and other banned outfits such as Lashkar-i-Jhangvi killed 27 personnel from the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) of the Karachi police between November 1 and December 15, 2012.[56]

The TTP’s escalating violence in Karachi has major security and political implications for Pakistan. Media reports suggest that of the 20 million people living in Karachi, roughly one million live in neighborhoods where the TTP has a presence.[57] Police suspect that Taliban militants in Karachi operate in small cells, each consisting of 10-15 militants.[58] If the group’s attacks on secular society and law enforcement continue, it could threaten stability in a city that earns 60-70% of Pakistan’s national revenue.[59]

On the political front, the Taliban’s growing strength in Karachi will weaken Pakistan’s more secular political parties, especially the anti-Taliban ANP and MQM.[60] The ANP leadership claims that TTP pressure and attacks in the lead-up to election day prevented them from openly contesting the polls in Karachi, and they were forced to limit outreach activities.[61] Perhaps partly as a result of this intimidation, the ANP, which had won two seats out of 42 in Karachi in the 2008 elections, lost both of its provincial assembly seats.[62] The PPP lost two national and three provincial assembly seats that it had won in previous elections as well.[63]

Therefore, if the TTP’s Karachi network grows, it could weaken the local economy, constrain Karachi’s secular parties, and threaten the city’s overall security.[64]

Pakistani security experts, politicians, and law enforcement all agree that the TTP wants to tighten its grip on Karachi.[65] The government is still in the position to roll-back the TTP’s spreading Karachi network, yet Karachi’s police force continues to downplay the TTP threat to the city, insisting that the number of tribal militants operating in Karachi is low.[66] Analysts suspect that the police want to avoid the perception that they have failed to maintain law-and-order in the city. If Pakistan fails to confront these developments soon, the TTP’s Karachi network will weaken the city’s overall security and stability, and this will have a national impact on Pakistan.

Nevertheless, although the TTP’s influence in Karachi is alarming, the city will not “fall” to the Taliban. Karachi is home to powerful liberal secular elements, as well as progressive political parties such as the MQM, PPP and ANP.[67] It does not share a border with either Afghanistan or the tribal areas, which will at least slow the TTP’s ability to infiltrate the city. These factors will help restrain the TTP from rapid advances.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and researcher who covers militancy and politics in Pakistan. He has written for The Friday Times, The Jamestown Foundation, The News International, The National and has contributed to the New York Times. He is also the author of the book Karachi in Turmoil.

[1] “Taliban Claim Responsibility: ANP Candidate, Son Shot Dead in Karachi,” Dawn, May 4, 2013.

[2] “Poll-Related Violence Claims 38 Lives,” Dawn, May 12, 2013.

[3] For the past decade, Afghan and Pakistani Taliban factions have used Karachi for fundraising purposes. After Pakistan’s military operations in the Swat Valley in 2009—as well as operations in South Waziristan Agency and Mohmand Agency—TTP militants expanded operations in Karachi. The scale of their operations increased dramatically beginning in June 2012.

[4] Karachi generates at least 60% of national revenue. For details, see Declan Walsh and Zia Ur Rehman, “Taliban Spread Terror in Karachi as the New Gang in Town,” New York Times, March 28, 2013; Zia Ur Rehman, “Taliban Bringing Their War to Streets of Karachi,” Friday Times, August 10, 2012; “Karachi Contributes 60-70pc of Revenue,” The Nation, July 25, 2010.

[5] Rehman, “Taliban Bringing Their War to Streets of Karachi.”

[6] “SC Orders IG Sindh, Officials to Submit Report on 7,000 Taliban Infiltrating Karachi,” Express Tribune, October 3, 2012; Fahim Zaman and Naziha Syed Ali, “Taliban in Karachi: The Real Story,” Dawn, March 31, 2013; “Taliban Flex Muscle in Karachi Ahead of Pakistan Vote,” Agence France-Presse, May 11, 2013.

[7] Syed Aarfeen, “Karachi Main Security Idray Baihis, Mukhbar Qatal, Intelligence Khatm Hogai,” Daily Jang [Karachi], February 2, 2013; Ali Arqam, “The Taliban in Karachi?” Pakistan Today, April 4, 2013; personal interview, Chaudhry Aslam Khan, senior Karachi police official, Karachi, Pakistan, February 25, 2013.

[8] Salman Masood, “New Exodus Fuels Concerns in Pakistan,” New York Times, May 15, 2009; personal interview, Chaudhry Aslam Khan, senior Karachi police official, Karachi, Pakistan, February 25, 2013.

[9] Farrukh Saleem, “Why Karachi is Bleeding,” The News International, October 21, 2010.

[10] Personal interview, Sohail Khattak, a journalist based in Karachi who has covered militancy in the city extensively, Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2013.

[11] Amir Mir, “Karachi Taken Hostage by 25 Jihadi Groups,” The News International, November 5, 2012.

[12] Zia Ur Rehman, “Taliban Recruiting and Fundraising in Karachi,” CTC Sentinel 5:7 (2012); personal interview, Chaudhry Aslam Khan, senior Karachi police official, Karachi, Pakistan, February 25, 2013; personal interview, TTP associate in Karachi who identified himself as “Mohsin,” Karachi, Pakistan, April 8, 2013.

[13] Personal interview, Shahi Syed, Sindh president of Awami National Party and a member of Pakistani Senate, Karachi, Pakistan, April 7, 2013. Syed said that before June 2012, there were only a few cases of the TTP threatening Pashtun traders and leaders at the organizational level. For more details, see Zia Ur Rehman, “Taliban Collect Funds Through Extortion, Forced Zakat, Officials Say,” Central Asia Online, August 1, 2012; personal interview, TTP associate in Karachi who identified himself as “Mohsin,” Karachi, Pakistan, April 8, 2013.

[14] Zia Ur Rehman, “Karachi Police Continue Crackdown on TTP,” Central Asia Online, December 3, 2012.

[15] Personal interview, Sohail Khattak, a journalist based in Karachi who has covered militancy in the city extensively, Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2013; Aarfeen.

[16] Personal interview, TTP associate in Karachi who identified himself as “Mohsin,” Karachi, Pakistan, April 8, 2013.

[17] Some media reports suggest that the two leaders are on poor terms due to prior disputes over TTP leadership succession. See “A New Pakistani Taliban Chief Emerging?” Dawn, December 6, 2012.

[18] Personal interview, TTP associate in Karachi who identified himself as “Mohsin,” Karachi, Pakistan, April 8, 2013; personal interview, former leader of the ANP from the Mehsud clan, Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2013.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Ibid.

[21] “Taliban Commander Killed in Sohrab Goth Raid,” The News International, April 6, 2013; “‘TTP Man’ Killed in Lasi Goth,” Dawn, April 6, 2013.

[22] Zaman and Ali.

[23] “‘TTP Man’ Arrested in Sohrab Goth,” Dawn, April 11, 2013; Salis bin Perwaiz, “‘Commander’ who Recruited 50 Youths for TTP Arrested,” The News International, April 11, 2013.

[24] Personal interview, Ali Muhammad, Pashtun transporter in Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2013; “‘TTP Man’ Arrested in Sohrab Goth”; “Pakistan Taliban Setup Sharia Courts in Karachi,” The News Tribe, January 31, 2013; Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, “How the Taliban Gripped Karachi,” BBC, March 21, 2013.

[25] Zia Ur Rehman, “Karachi Targeted Killings of Pashtuns Tied to Militant Groups,” Central Asia Online, April 1, 2011.

[26] Personal interview, TTP associate in Karachi who identified himself as “Mohsin,” Karachi, Pakistan, April 8, 2013.

[27] “Extremist Commander Killed in Khyber,” The News International, December 20, 2010.

[28] Rehman, “Karachi Targeted Killings of Pashtuns Tied to Militant Groups.”

[29] Personal interview, Shahi Syed, Sindh president of Awami National Party and a member of Pakistani Senate, Karachi, Pakistan, April 7, 2013; Javed Mahmood, “TTP Warns ANP Workers to Quit Party,” Central Asia Online, July 7, 2013; Sohail Khattak, “Settling Scores: Taliban on a Killing Spree in Karachi,” Express Tribune, August 16, 2012.

[30] Rehman, “Taliban Bringing their War to Streets of Karachi.”

[31] Personal interview, TTP associate in Karachi who identified himself as “Mohsin,” Karachi, Pakistan, April 8, 2013.

[32] Ali Arqam, “The Taliban in Karachi?” Pakistan Today, April 4, 2013.

[33] Rehman, “Taliban Bringing Their War to Streets of Karachi.”

[34] Ibid.

[35] Personal interview, timber trader in Karachi from Mohmand Agency, Karachi, Pakistan, April 10, 2013.

[36] Rehman, “Taliban Recruiting and Fundraising in Karachi.”

[37] The ransom amounts are reportedly negotiable, but payment is not. See Walsh and Rehman.

[38] Personal interview, Pashtun transporter in Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan, April 12, 2013.

[39] Ibid.; Saeed Shah, “Sprawling Karachi Becomes an Islamic Extremist Melting Pot,” McClatchy Newspapers, June 9, 2010.

[40] Personal interview, Chaudhry Aslam Khan, senior Karachi police official, Karachi, Pakistan, February 25, 2013; Javed Mahmood, “Pakistani Banks to Issue Alerts About Suspicious Transactions,” Central Asia Online, September 9, 2012.

[41] Saud Khan, “Rs 76.4m Looted in 11 Bank Heists This Year,” Daily Times, May 2, 2013; “‘Taliban Bank Robber’ Held,” The News International, May 8, 2013.

[42] Ibid.

[43] “Karachi: Taliban nay Raqam ke Tanazeh par apnay commander ka sar qalam kardia, Express to video Mosool,” Daily Express [Karachi], March 11, 2013.

[44] Maqbool Ahmed and Mansoor Khan, “Troubled North-West Comes to Town,” Herald, December 16, 2012.

[45] Ibid.

[46] Personal interview, Shahi Syed, Sindh president of Awami National Party and a member of Pakistani Senate, Karachi, Pakistan, April 7, 2013.

[47] Urdu-speaking Muslims migrated to Pakistan when the country became independent from the British in 1947, and they largely settled in Karachi and Hyderabad in Sindh Province. The MQM has openly denounced the TTP in the past. See Zahir Shah Sherazi, “Pakistan Taliban Threaten to Target MQM,” Dawn, November 2, 2012; “Pakistani Taliban Claim Responsibility for MQM MPA’s Killing,” Dawn, January 17, 2013.

[48] “Taliban Flex Muscle in Karachi Ahead of Pakistan Vote.”

[49] Ibid.

[50] “Taliban Attack on ANP Meeting Kills Ten in Karachi,” Dawn, April 26, 2013; Imran Kazmi, “Attacks on MQM, PPP in Karachi; Five Killed,” Dawn, April 28, 2013.

[51] “Plan B for ANP Candidates: Live the Country,” Express Tribune, May 11, 2013.

[52] Mansoor Khan, “Taliban Bullets Kill ANP Candidate, Son in Karachi,” The Nation, May 4, 2013; Salis Bin Perwaiz, “Explosions Rock Karachi; Punjab, KP Remain Relatively Peaceful,” The News International, May 12, 2013.

[53] Zia Ur Rehman, “Karachi Police Determined to Eliminate Terror Network,” Central Asia Online, December 12, 2012.

[54] Personal interview, Chaudhry Aslam Khan, senior Karachi police official, Karachi, Pakistan, February 25, 2013; “Police Officers Were Receiving Threats from Terrorists in Karachi: Sources,” Samaa TV, September 19, 2011.

[55] Aarfeen.

[56] Zia Ur Rehman, “Karachi Police Determined to Eliminate Terror Network.”

[57] Zaman and Ali.

[58] Ibid.

[59] “Karachi Contributes 60-70pc of Revenue.”

[60] Ali K. Chishti, “Terror Threat Looms in Karachi,” Friday Times, April 12-18, 2013.

[61] Personal interview, Younas Khan, an ANP candidate contesting elections from Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan, May 10, 2013.

[62] Ibid.; Tahir Hasan Khan, “PPP and ANP Lose their Share in City,” The News International, May 13, 2013.

[63] Ibid.

[64] Personal interview, Abdul Waheed, president of Bright Education Society, an NGO working in Pashtun neighborhoods of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan, April 16, 2013.

[65] Personal interview, Shahi Syed, Sindh president of Awami National Party and a member of Pakistani Senate, Karachi, Pakistan, April 7, 2013.

[66] Aarfeen.

[67] Personal interview, Muhammad Nafees, a Karachi-based independent security analyst, Karachi, Pakistan, April 16, 2013.

CTCSentinel-Vol6Iss5 (2)

ctc sentinel

Author : Zia Ur Rehman

February 20, 2013

On January 2, 2013, a U.S. drone strike killed Maulvi Nazir in South Waziristan Agency in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).[1] Nazir, a senior Taliban commander, was closely aligned with the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network, and the Hafiz Gul Bahadur Taliban faction, yet he had an antagonistic relationship with Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).[2] Nazir was the leader of one of four major militant factions in FATA, and he was accused of sending fighters to neighboring Afghanistan to attack NATO and Afghan troops.[3] Yet unlike the TTP, Nazir was opposed to attacking targets inside Pakistan.[4] His refusal to attack Pakistan allowed the country’s military to forge a non-aggression pact with his faction, which served Pakistan’s strategy of isolating the TTP.[5]

Although Nazir’s death will likely hurt the Afghan Taliban, it marks a positive development for the TTP. Nazir led one of the few militias willing to challenge the TTP, and his fighters engaged in occasional skirmishes with the group. The TTP even reportedly tried to assassinate Nazir in November 2012.[6] Unless Nazir’s successor is able to project strength quickly, the TTP may be emboldened by the loss of this rival leader. This might place more pressure on Pakistan’s security forces if Nazir’s death enables the TTP to focus more resources against the Pakistani state.

This article examines Nazir’s significance in Pakistan and Afghanistan, assesses the overall implications of his death for the United States and Pakistan, as well as provides a short profile of his successor, Bahawal Khan.

Maulvi Nazir’s Significance
Maulvi Nazir was born in 1975 in Birmel, a town in Afghanistan’s Paktika Province, located only five-and-a-half miles from the Pakistan border.[7] He belonged to the Kakakhel tribe, a sub-clan of the Ahmedzai Wazir.[8] As is typical in the region, his family lived on both sides of the Durand Line separating Afghanistan and Pakistan.[9] While in Birmel, Nazir reportedly studied at a religious seminary.[10] He later expanded on his studies as a student of Maulana Noor Muhammad at Darul Uloom Waziristan, located in Wana, South Waziristan Agency.[11]

He joined the Taliban movement in 1996 and fought against the Northern Alliance.[12] After the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001, Nazir returned to Wana and became actively involved in supporting al-Qa`ida and Taliban activities in South Waziristan.[13] He was arrested by Pakistan’s security forces in 2004, but was later released under the Shakai peace deal that was signed between Taliban commander Nek Muhammad and the Pakistan Army.[14]

After his release, Nazir moved back to Wana, where he became the top militant leader in the area by 2006-2007.[15] His network stretched into southwestern Afghanistan, to include Paktika, Zabul, Helmand and up to Kandahar.[16] His fighters primarily consisted of members of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, who inhabit the western and southern areas of South Waziristan.[17] The modern guerrilla techniques employed by al-Qa`ida fighters inspired Nazir, who also worked on improving the skills of his own fighters.[18] In an interview, Nazir said that “al-Qa`ida and the Taliban are one and the same. At an operational level, we might have different strategies, but at the policy level, we are one and the same.”[19] A number of key al-Qa`ida leaders—such as Ilyas Kashmiri, Abu Khabab al-Masri, Osama al-Kini, Shaykh Ahmad Salim Swedan, and Abu Zaid al-Iraqi—were killed in U.S. drone strikes while reportedly under Nazir’s protection.[20]

Nazir became the top militant leader in the Wana area after he successfully challenged local militant leaders Haji Sharif, Maulana Abbas and Haji Omar—all considered key supporters of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).[21] After establishing control in these areas in 2007, Nazir confronted the foreign Uzbek militant presence, accusing them of robbing and killing Ahmadzai Wazir tribesmen and imposing their self-styled Shari`a on local inhabitants.[22]

With the support of his Ahmedzai Wazir tribe and the assistance of Pakistan’s military, Nazir successfully flushed the Uzbek militants from Wana in 2007, an action that angered the TTP. Baitullah Mehsud had a long relationship with the IMU, even before he created the TTP. IMU leader Tahir Yuldashev offered his fighters to Baitullah when the latter decided to attack the Pakistani state.[23] The TTP provided sanctuary for the IMU in exchange for its assistance in fighting Pakistani security forces.[24] As these local commanders and their allied Uzbek militants left the area, Nazir became the sole Taliban leader around Wana.[25]

Nazir’s attack on the Uzbeks, as well as his disagreement with the TTP over attacking the Pakistani state, eventually caused conflict between Nazir’s Taliban faction and the TTP.[26] In January 2008, fighting broke out between the two groups in South Waziristan.[27] Periodic skirmishes continue through the present day.[28] In November 2012, Nazir barely avoided death after a suicide bomber—thought to be from the TTP—tried to assassinate him.[29] Yet his life was ultimately ended by a U.S. drone on January 2, 2013.

Implications for the United States and Pakistan
U.S. officials and security analysts argue that Nazir’s death will benefit the United States because he headed one of the three major militant groups in the Waziristan region that focus attacks on U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan, as well as provide protection for al-Qa`ida fighters.[30] In 2009 and 2010, Nazir reportedly helped deploy hundreds of well-trained “Punjabi” Taliban militants of Pakistani origin inside Afghan territory to pressure U.S. and coalition forces ahead of their withdrawal.[31] One U.S. official told the New York Times that “while it is too soon to tell, the death of Nazir, along with some of his deputies, could push his network into disarray, degrading Al Qaeda’s access to South Waziristan as a result.”[32]

For Pakistan, however, Nazir’s death is more complicated. Pakistan’s military and Nazir’s faction were operating under a non-aggression pact, and violent incidents between the two were rare. Nazir was also at war with the TTP, the latter of which is Pakistan’s primary domestic security threat.[33] Pakistan even offered support to Nazir’s faction against the TTP.[34] Nazir’s death could mean that the TTP can free up resources to attack Pakistani targets.[35]

Through the pro-government Nazir faction, Pakistan’s military was trying to instigate a tribal uprising against the TTP in South Waziristan and flush out the TTP’s Mehsud militants from the territory, as well as increase disunity among all the Taliban groups.[36] The government has encouraged local tribesmen to form lashkars (tribal militias) to eliminate “hard-core al-Qa`ida elements and their affiliates especially the TTP,” who have increasingly challenged the writ of the state by mounting deadly terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.[37] Forging good relations with Nazir’s successor is likely Pakistan’s top priority so that peace can continue with the Ahmedzai Wazir of South Waziristan.

Nazir’s Successor: Bahawal Khan
After Nazir’s killing, Bahawal Khan (also known as Salahuddin Ayubi) was announced as the new chief of Wana’s Taliban militants. Khan is reportedly a 34-year-old illiterate former bus driver.[38] He has long been a close associate of Nazir, as the two men fought together with the Taliban in Afghanistan before the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.[39] He was the Taliban commander for the Speen area of South Waziristan.[40] Although Qari Ziaur Rahman was Maulvi Nazir’s deputy, the council of Wana-based militants agreed to nominate Khan because he is a veteran jihadist commander who remained close to Nazir. Khan initially refused to accept the leadership position, but agreed after elders and militant commanders in the area insisted he should become the new chief.[41]

Analysts describe Khan as more hot tempered than Nazir.[42] Nevertheless, some believe that Khan will be able to maintain cohesion within the ranks.[43] Others argue that Khan may prove less operationally or strategically important as Nazir, as he will have to live under constant threat of drone strikes.[44]

In the wake of Nazir’s killing, some analysts say his successor and followers may now turn their guns on civilian and military targets in Pakistan because they suspect that Pakistan’s security establishment is consenting to drone attacks.[45] According to this theory, one negative outcome from Nazir’s death is that the peace agreement between the Pakistani government and Nazir’s faction will collapse, and followers of Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan will join together with the TTP.[46] Such a development would be dangerous for Pakistan, although there is no evidence that this has occurred.[47]

Others argue that Nazir’s killing will weaken his faction dramatically, and allow the TTP to take advantage in Wana.[48] Pakistan’s military has struggled to maintain a strategic balance in the Waziristan region by entering into peace deals with some of the area’s militant factions—with the goal of isolating the TTP. The loss of Nazir means that there will be less pressure from this group on the TTP, providing it with opportunities to strengthen and expand its presence and influence back into the Wana area of South Waziristan, which was previously dominated by Nazir.[49]

Nazir’s death is a loss to the insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan, and it could also hurt the Afghan Taliban’s sanctuaries in the Pakistani tribal region. For the United States, Nazir’s death might weaken the insurgency in Afghanistan and also possibly damage Pakistan’s strategy of negotiating with militant groups friendly to its interests.[50]

Nazir’s death could be a contentious issue between Washington and Islamabad since the Pakistani military views commanders such as Nazir as useful in keeping the peace domestically. His death may now create a power vacuum, and possibly spark a tribal war that will leave Pakistan to deal with the consequent instability.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and researcher who covers militancy in Pakistan. He has written for The Friday Times, The Jamestown Foundation, The News International, The National and has contributed to the New York Times.

[1] “Two Attacks Leave 12 Dead: ‘Good Taliban’ Maulvi Nazir Killed by Drone,” Dawn, January 3, 2013.

[2] “Pakistan Militant Mullah Nazir Killed ‘in Drone Attack,’” BBC, January 3, 2013.

[3]  These factions are the Haqqani network, the Hafiz Gul Bahadar faction, the TTP, and Maulvi Nazir’s faction.

[4] He was closely allied with Hafiz Gul Bahadar, whose territory is in North Waziristan Agency. Bahadar’s faction shares Maulvi Nazir’s targeting selection, as they both choose to concentrate attacks in Afghanistan and not in Pakistan.

[5]  Personal interview, Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, a Pashtun journalist who has covered militancy in the region, January 5, 2013.

[6]  Amir Mir, “Key Taliban Coalition Falling Apart After Nazir Attack,” The News International, December 5, 2012.

[7] Chris Harnish, “Question Mark of South Waziristan: Biography and Analysis of Maulvi Nazir Ahmad,” Critical Threats Project, July 17, 2009; “Profile: The ‘Good’ Taliban Leader,” Express Tribune, January 4, 2012.

[8]  Zulfiqar Ali, “Mullah Nazir’s Death: New Taliban Chief Named in South Waziristan,” Express Tribune, January 5, 2012.

[9]  Ibid.

[10] “Profile: The ‘Good’ Taliban Leader.”

[11] Ibid.

[12] Rahimullah Yusufzai, “Eviction or Safe Passage?” Newsline, May 10, 2007.

[13]  Personal interview, Wana-based journalist, January 5, 2013.

[14] “Profile: The ‘Good’ Taliban Leader.”

[15] Personal interview, Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, a Pashtun journalist who has covered militancy in the region, January 5, 2013.

[16]  Syed Saleem Shahzad, “Taliban and al-Qaeda: Friends in Arms,” Asia Times Online, May 5, 2011.

[17]  Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Ibid.

[20] Amir Mir, “Maulvi Nazir’s Death Irks Security Establishment,” The News International, January 4, 2013.

[21] Mansoor Khan Mahsud, “The Battle for Pakistan: Militancy and Conflict in South Waziristan,” New America Foundation, April 2010.

[22]  Adil Shahzeb, “The Mullah and the Military,” The Friday Times, January 11, 2013.

[23]  Amir Mir, “TTP Using Uzbeks to Conduct Terrorist Attacks,” The News International, December 18, 2012.

[24]  Ibid.

[25] Personal interview, Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, a Pashtun journalist who has covered militancy in the region, January 5, 2013.

[26] Iqbal Khattak, “Wazir Tribes Ratify New Militant Bloc,” Daily Times, July 9, 2008; personal interview, Pir Zubair Shah, a former New York Times reporter who is from South Waziristan, November 28, 2012.

[27]  Harnish.

[28] See, for example, “Hakimullah’s Men Clash with Nazir Group; Three Killed,” Dawn, August 19, 2010; “Clash Between Militants Groups Claimed Five People,” FATA Research Center, August 6, 2012.

[29] Zia Ur Rehman, “Waziristan After Maulvi Nazir,” The Friday Times, January 11, 2013; Mir, “Key Taliban Coalition Falling Apart After Nazir Attack.”

[30]  The Pentagon said that Nazir’s death would represent a “major development.” See Salman Masood and Ismail Khan, “Drone Kills a Pakistani Militant Behind Attacks on U.S. Forces,” New York Times, January 3, 2013; “Mullah Nazir’s Death a ‘Major Development’: US,” Express Tribune, January 4, 2013.

[31]  M. Ilyas Khan, “Taliban’s Mullah Nazir Death Spells Trouble for Pakistan,” BBC, January 3, 2013.

[32]  Masood and Khan.

[33]  Mir, “Maulvi Nazir’s Death Irks Security Establishment.”

[34]  Ibid.

[35]  Personal interview, a Wana-based journalist, January 5, 2013.

[36] Ibid.

[37] Zia Ur Rehman, “Tribal Militias are Double-edged Weapon,” The Friday Times, September 30, 2011.

[38] “Bahawal Khan to Succeed Pakistan Militant Leader Mullah Nazir,” BBC, January 4, 2013.

[39] Ibid.

[40] Mushtaq Yusufzai, “Shops, Markets in Wana Remain Closed Amid Tense Calm,” The News International, January 5, 2013.

[41] Irfan Burki and Mushtaq Yousafzai, “Maulvi Nazir Among 10 Killed in Drone Strikes,” The News International, January 4, 2013.

[42]  Personal interview, Ijaz Khan, a Peshawar-based security analyst, January 12, 2013.

[43]  “Bahawal Khan to Succeed Pakistan Militant Leader Mullah Nazir.”

[44]  Shahzeb.

[45] Taha Siddiqui, “Good Taliban, Bad Taliban? Pakistani Commander’s Killing Exposes Blurry Lines,” Christian Science Monitor, January 5, 2013.

[46]  Shamim Shahid, “Luck Runs Out for Mullah Nazir,” Pakistan Today, January 4, 2013.

[47]  Ibid.

[48]  Personal interview, Ijaz Khan, a Peshawar-based security analyst, January 12, 2013.

[49]  Personal interview, Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, a Pashtun journalist who has covered militancy in the region, January 5, 2013.

[50]  Personal interview, a retired Pakistani military officer, January 5, 2013.

Author : Zia Ur Rehman

Sep 27, 2012

Since the start of the current Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, U.S.-led NATO forces and the Afghan government have blamed much of the violence on militants based in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Insurgents from groups such as the Haqqani network are able to plan operations from their bases located in Pakistan’s tribal areas, cross the border into Afghanistan, execute attacks, and then retreat back into the relative safety of Pakistan.

Yet in the last two years, the issue of cross-border attacks has become even more complicated. Pakistan itself is now victim to Pakistani Taliban militants who are sheltering in Afghanistan, crossing the border into Pakistan to conduct attacks, and then retreating back across the Afghan border.[1] Pakistani officials assert that these militants are part of the Pakistani Taliban factions that once pressed for power in the Swat Valley, but were forced to flee into Afghanistan during a successful Pakistani military operation in 2009. Pakistan believes that these militants have regrouped in the border region and are now confident enough to carry out large-scale, cross-border attacks on Pakistani targets.

Seventeen large-scale, cross-border incursions of militants from Afghanistan to Pakistan have occurred in the last six months.[2] Most of the attacks were carried out in Bajaur Agency of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), an important agency for the Taliban and al-Qa`ida because it shares a border with Kunar Province in Afghanistan—a strategic province from which NATO forces have largely withdrawn.

This article examines the trend of Pakistani Taliban militants using Afghanistan as a staging ground for attacks in Pakistan. It reviews a few key cross-border attacks and speculates whether these operations are part of a larger Taliban strategy.

Cross-Border Attacks
In 2011, security in the border areas remained volatile, with 69 reported clashes and cross-border attacks that killed 225 people.[3] Pakistani military commander Major General Ghulam Qamar asserted that since February 2012, there have been 17 major cross-border incursions where Pakistani Taliban fighters entered Pakistan from Afghanistan to attack Pakistani interests.[4] The incursions have mainly occurred in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies in FATA and Dir and Chitral districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

On June 24, 2012, for example, an estimated 100 militants belonging to Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) entered Pakistan’s Upper Dir District from Afghanistan’s Kunar Province and killed 17 Pakistani soldiers.[5] A few days later, the militants released a video showing the severed heads of the 17 soldiers.[6] The video included a statement from Hakimullah Mehsud, the TTP’s leader, and Maulana Fazlullah, head of the TTP’s Swat chapter.

On July 12, dozens of Pakistani Taliban militants crossed from Afghanistan’s Kunar Province into Pakistan and took scores of villagers hostage, including members of an anti-Taliban militia in the Katkot area of Bajaur Agency.[7] Pakistani forces quickly surrounded the village, killing eight militants.[8]

More recently, Pakistani Taliban militants sheltering in Afghanistan attacked security checkpoints at Inkle Sar and Miskini Darra areas of Samar Bagh Tehsil in Lower Dir District on August 24.[9] The militants were reportedly members of the TTP’s Dir chapter led by Hafizullah.[10]

Also on August 24, hundreds of Pakistani Taliban militants crossed into Pakistan from Kunar Province and attacked security personnel as well as a local tribal militia known as the Salarzai Qaumi lashkar in the Batwar area of Bajaur Agency.[11] Security forces responded, which led to heavy fighting that resulted in the deaths of 30 militants and an estimated six members of the security forces.[12] Fifteen members of the security forces, however, went missing.[13] On August 31, TTP militants released a video showing the severed heads of the 15 soldiers.[14]

Taliban Hideouts in Afghanistan
Pakistani security officials and local tribal elders assert that these cross-border attacks into Pakistani territory have been executed by militants belonging to the Bajaur, Swat and Dir chapters of the TTP, with help from Afghan Taliban militants. Following the Pakistan military’s operations in Swat, Dir and Bajaur in 2009, militants led by Maulana Fazlullah were pushed out of Pakistani territory, and they reportedly fled into Kunar and Nuristan provinces in Afghanistan. From Afghanistan, they prepared for cross-border attacks on Pakistani security forces.[15] With NATO troops largely withdrawing from Kunar and Nuristan throughout 2011, Pakistani analysts suspect that the operating environment has become more conducive to Pakistani Taliban fighters.

The TTP itself has admitted that they use Afghan soil as a springboard to launch attacks on Pakistani security forces—even though the Afghan Taliban deny it.[16] Sirajuddin, a spokesperson for the TTP’s Malakand chapter, said that Maulana Fazlullah is leading militant attacks and remains in contact with Pakistani Taliban fighters based in Pakistan’s Malakand division. Sirajuddin claimed that Fazlullah commands more than 1,000 fighters who move regularly across the porous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.[17] The exact number of TTP militants in Afghanistan is not known, but Pakistani Major General Athar Abbas said that 200 to 300 militants have been mounting cross-border attacks in Dir, Chitral and Bajaur.[18]

Firm evidence of the TTP’s use of Kunar Province came to light when the head of the TTP’s Bajaur chapter, Mullah Dadullah, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Shigal district of Kunar Province on August 24, 2012.[19] Dadullah, whose real name was Jamal Said, had a close association with senior members of al-Qa`ida from 2003 to 2007, according to tribal sources. He was the chief of the TTP’s moral police and head of the Taliban’s treasury.[20]

Media reports suggest that Qari Ziaur Rehman, a key al-Qa`ida commander who is from Kunar, as well as Shaykh Dost Muhammad, a Nuristan-based Afghan Taliban leader, are hosting the Pakistani Taliban militants.[21] Rehman is thought to have once been a close confidante of Usama bin Ladin and hosted him temporarily after his escape from the Tora Bora Mountains in 2001.[22] Rehman was sheltered by the Pakistani Taliban in Bajaur Agency for years, and he is now reportedly returning the favor.[23]

Broader Strategic Plan?
Some analysts believe that violence on both sides of the border is a coordinated strategy of al-Qa`ida, the TTP and the Afghan Taliban to damage ties among Islamabad, Kabul and Washington by increasing mutual distrust. Former Afghan Defense Minister Shahnawaz Tanai explained that Taliban elements in both countries helped each other during the fight against the Soviet Union, and this same cooperation extends today.[24] The TTP’s use of so-called “safehavens” in Afghanistan mirrors the Afghan Taliban’s successful use of safehavens in Pakistan.

Other experts argue that the recent rise in cross-border attacks is part of a coordinated strategy to prevent a Pakistani military operation against the Haqqani network.[25] Karachi-based security expert Raees Ahmed believes that the TTP has escalated attacks in Bajaur in response to an impending army operation in North Waziristan, which would coincide with U.S. or Afghan military action against TTP bases in Afghanistan.[26] Militants may be seeking to carve out territory in Bajaur so that they can threaten violence in the settled areas of Malakand division in case Pakistan and the United States coordinate a military offensive.[27]

The recent cross-border incursions on both sides of the border clearly show that Pakistan, Afghanistan and NATO have all failed to clear the strategically important border areas of militants, permitting previously dispersed extremist organizations to regroup and prepare new, large-scale attacks in both countries. Although security forces have begun operations to repel further attacks, they are unlikely to be successful until they deal collectively with the issue of cross-border militancy—a problem to which there are no easy solutions.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and researcher who covers militancy in Pakistan. He has written for The Friday Times, The Jamestown Foundation, Herald and The News International, and contributed to the New York Times.

[1] “Pakistan Accuses Afghanistan of Backing Taliban Enemy,” Reuters, August 5, 2012.

[2] Daily Azadi [Swat], September 7, 2012.

[3] “Pakistan Security Report 2011,” Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, January 2012.

[4] Daily Azadi [Swat], September 7, 2012.

[5] “Taliban Release Video of Beheaded Pakistani Soldiers,” Agence France-Presse, June 27, 2012.

[6] Ibid.

[7] “Militants Take Villagers Hostage in Bajaur,” Dawn, July 12, 2012.

[8] Ibid.

[9] “Taliban Attack Security Posts in Lower Dir,” Express Tribune, August 24, 2012.

[10] Ibid.

[11] BBC Urdu, August 27, 2012; personal interview, member of Salarzai Qaumi Lashkar, September 3, 2012; “At Least 28 Militants Killed in Bajaur Agency,” Dawn, August 25, 2012.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Anwarullah Khan, “Militants Release Video of Beheaded Soldiers,” Dawn, September 1, 2012.

[14] Ibid.

[15] Personal interviews, elders of Salarzai Qaumi Lashkar, Khar town, Bajaur Agency, Pakistan, March 25, 2012.

[16] Tahir Khan, “Cross-Border Cooperation: Ties That Bind Militants Persist,” Express Tribune, July 8, 2011.

[17] Tahir Khan, “TTP Admits to Having Safe Haven in Afghanistan,” Express Tribune, June 26, 2012.

[18] Zia Khan and Naveed Hussain, “Border Incursions: Suspicions Grow about Afghan Support for TTP,” Express Tribune, September 11, 2011.

[19] Declan Walsh, “Pakistani Militant Leader Dies in Airstrike, NATO Says,” New York Times, August 25, 2012; Javed Hamim Kakar and Khan Wali Salarzai, “Key Haqqani, TTP Leaders Killed in Drone Strikes,” Pajhwok Afghan News, August 25, 2012.

[20] Zia Ur Rehman, “On the Borderline,” Friday Times, September 7-13, 2012.

[21] Khan, “Cross-Border Cooperation: Ties that Bind Militants Persist.”

[22] Khan and Hussain.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Khan, “Cross-Border Cooperation: Ties that Bind Militants Persist.”

[25] “Understanding with US on Joint Action Against Haqqanis,” Dawn, August 6, 2012.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Personal interview, Raees Ahmed, security analyst, Karachi, Pakistan, September 4, 2012.

By Zia Ur Rehman

Jul 24, 2012

Karachi is Pakistan’s commercial hub as well as its largest city. Taking advantage of Karachi’s ongoing ethnic and sectarian violence, militants from several Taliban factions and al-Qa`ida have moved to the city to escape U.S. drone strikes and Pakistani military operations in Pakistan’s northwest tribal regions.[1]

Karachi’s role as a shelter for al-Qa`ida and Taliban militants is well known. This article, however, provides clarity on how al-Qa`ida and Taliban militants are using Karachi to recruit university-educated youth as well as finance their operations against Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan.

A brief profile of Karachi city : 

Karachi is Pakistan’s financial hub with an estimated population of 18 million.[2] It accounts for the lion’s share of Pakistan’s gross domestic product and generates at least 60% of national revenue.[3] It is home to Pakistan’s central bank and its stock exchange. Karachi is where national and multinational corporations—such as international banks and real estate companies—have established their Pakistan operations.

Karachi is a key port city strategically located on the shores of the Indian Ocean, serving as a major shipping and maritime hub. It is the primary entry-point for U.S. and NATO supplies for Afghanistan. The majority of NATO supplies arrive at Karachi port where they are trucked through Pakistan to two entry points into Afghanistan.[4]

With its affluent residents, Karachi is fertile ground not only for criminal groups and armed wings of political and religious parties, but also for Taliban militants as well as al-Qa`ida. During the last decade, there has been an influx of Pashtun and Sindhi people to the city due to displacement caused by ongoing Pakistani military operations in the country’s tribal areas, as well as by recent flooding in Sindh Province.[5]

Karachi is considered an attractive hideout for al-Qa`ida and Taliban groups because the sheer size of the city, combined with its assortment of ethnic and linguistic groups, makes it easy to live and operate unseen.[6] Al-Qa`ida and Taliban groups can also rely on logistical and other support from Karachi’s assortment of militant, religious and sectarian groups.[7] The capture of several high-profile al-Qa`ida and Taliban leaders from Karachi shows that both organizations are operating in the city.[8]

Security experts argue that al-Qa`ida has successfully merged with Karachi-based local militant groups in Pakistan, and is in the process of shifting its base from the tribal areas to urban areas, especially Karachi, to avoid drone strikes.[9] These local militant groups include Lashkar-i-Jhangvi, Jundullah, Jaysh-i-Muhammad, Jamaat-ul-Furqan, Harkat-ul-Mujahidin, Lashkar-i-Tayyiba, Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, and Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami.[10]

Recruitment : 

Karachi’s role in recruitment for al-Qa`ida and Taliban groups is underreported. While the recruiting pool in the tribal areas is largely uneducated, Karachi offers a very different dynamic. Karachi is recognized for its academic institutions as well as religious seminaries.

One professor in the Applied Physics department at Karachi University told a reporter in May 2011 that the material learned in certain courses could be used by students for militant purposes.[11] “Last semester, I was planning to start a project with my students to remotely control a device, but then stopped when I learnt that one of them hailed from Waziristan,” the professor said.[12] The professor clarified that he was not profiling students from Pakistan’s tribal areas, but he did worry that the material learned in university courses could be applied in terrorist attacks.

Recruitment from universities was highlighted after the arrests of Dr. Akmal Waheed and Dr. Arshad Waheed in April 2004, two Pakistani brothers. The men were accused of having links to al-Qa`ida, attacking a Karachi corps commander’s convoy and aiding financially as well as harboring activists of the banned Jundullah militant group. The brothers, who were former leaders of the Pakistan Islamic Medical Association (PIMA), an affiliate organization of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), reportedly inspired a number of students through their lectures and jihadist literature. Many of these students joined the so-called Punjabi Taliban and later lost their lives in U.S. drone strikes.[13] In 2006, the brothers were exonerated from all charges and released by Pakistani authorities. Yet in March 2008, Arshad Waheed was killed by a U.S. drone in Wana, South Waziristan Agency, while his brother, Akmal, was sentenced to three years in prison in the United Arab Emirates in 2011 for running a jihadist organization in the country and having direct communications with a senior al-Qa`ida member.[14] Interestingly, al-Qa`ida’s media wing, al-Sahab, released a 40-minute compilation video commemorating Arshad Waheed in the third part of a series of videos entitled “The Protectors of the Sanctuary,” which was also reportedly the first time that al-Qa`ida used Urdu in a video instead of Arabic.[15]

Three militants, all drop-outs of Karachi University, inspired by the Waheed brothers were arrested on January 13, 2011. In that case, Karachi Police said the three former students bombed Shi`a students on the university’s campus on December 28, 2010. According to police reports, the three men received military training in the Miran Shah area of North Waziristan Agency.[16] The accused told interrogators that in 2007 they created a group called the “Punjabi Mujahidin” after a disagreement with the JI leadership over jihad in Pakistan and after being inspired by the Waheed brothers.[17] They claimed to have recruited 150 activists, and their goal was to fight against Pakistan’s security forces as well as support the TTP.[18]

In another incident, on May 12, 2011, local police announced the arrests of four Karachi University students, who were accused of being members of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. The students were in possession of weapons and suicide bomber jackets, and planning to attack major government installations in the city.[19] The men were studying Applied Physics and Computer Science at the university.[20] After the arrests, various professors at the university reportedly worried that students with a “jihadist bent of mind” were more inclined to study at departments such as Chemical Engineering, Applied Physics and Computer Science—all subject areas that could be used to further jihadist violence.[21]

Al-Qa`ida and the Taliban’s move to penetrate academic institutions is strategic, said police officials who run anti-militancy operations in the city, adding that military groups have successfully gained sympathizers at not only Karachi University, but also at NED University of Engineering and Technology, Dawood College of Engineering and Technology, the Institute of Chartered Accountants and other prestigious institutions.

Taliban groups distribute jihadist literature among college and university students in Karachi in an effort to recruit them into militancy, and also disseminate guidelines for making bombs and thwarting explosive detection equipment to potential recruits, according to media.[22]

Observers argue that JI, and especially its student wing Islami Jamiat Talaba (IJT), has faced internal dissent ever since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. JI’s decision not to take a clear stand against the intervention in Afghanistan upset many of the party’s more radical members, especially among the youth. There is evidence that radical members within the party have joined or supported militant activities in Pakistan.[23]

It is also reported that Jundullah, a banned militant outfit linked with al-Qa`ida and the TTP, was also formed by former IJT activist Attaur Rehman, a student of the statistics department at Karachi University.[24] Rehman was arrested in June 2004 on charges of masterminding a series of terrorist attacks in Karachi and targeting security forces and government installations.[25]

Shahid Khan (also known as Qari Shahid), the alleged mastermind of the Mehran Naval Base attack in May 2011, was also a former member of the IJT and a key leader of the Punjabi Taliban.[26] He reportedly had a master’s degree in Political Science from Karachi University and was a working journalist.[27]

Taliban groups also run recruiting activities at religious madrasas, the only schooling available to many underprivileged children. During General Zia-ul-Haq’s 11-year rule, Karachi experienced the tremendous growth of madrasa networks, and these schools have trained and dispatched fighters to Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir. According to government estimates, out of a total of 1,248 madrasas in Sindh Province, at least 869 exist in Karachi alone.[28] Taliban groups manipulate deprived youth through jihadist literature and lectures into believing they can go from a state of dispossession to one of exaltation through jihad.

The sectarian, jihadist content of the madrasa curriculum is untouched, and there is no meaningful control over money flow into and through madrasas and other religious institutions. According to one sociologist, the madrasa landscape in Pakistan is still frightening not because some are directly involved in creating terrorists, but because they all foster a particular mindset in which—under certain circumstances—terrorism can easily take root. The umbilical link of banned militant groups, especially Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), with Karachi’s jihadist madrasas remains intact, their teachers and students its main strength. All SSP leaders, including Haq Nawaz Jhangvi and Azam Tariq, have been Karachi madrasa graduates.

Funding : 

Karachi, with its affluent residents and big business, has proved fertile ground for financing Taliban activities. Police say that Taliban generate funds in Karachi through bank robberies, protection rackets and kidnappings.[29] The police claim that the TTP has robbed Karachi banks of $18 million since 2009.[30] Similarly, kidnappings of high-profile figures and businessmen for ransom is a major source of funding. Kidnap-for-ransom schemes are common among criminal groups in Karachi, yet there are signs that Taliban-affiliated groups are escalating their kidnap-for-ransom activities in the city as well. Many cases of kidnapping are not reported to police, and families decide to pay the ransom money quietly due to fear of repercussions from militants.

In 2011, there were more than 100 recorded kidnap-for-ransom cases in Karachi, a record high.[31] A government adviser in Sindh Province told the BBC, “With local criminals, kidnaps can take six weeks to resolve. With the Taliban it can take six months, or a year. They demand payment in foreign currency and they do their homework quite well.”[32]

In October 2008, prominent Pakistani filmmaker Satish Anand was kidnapped in Karachi. He was eventually released in the Miran Shah area of North Waziristan Agency after his family paid approximately $169,000 for his release—down from an initial ransom demand of $530,000.[33] In 2011, three Punjabi militants kidnapped local Karachi industrialist Riaz Chinoy and demanded approximately $740,000. Although they eventually lowered their demands to $211,000, all three militants were killed after the police raided the home in which they were holding Chinoy.[34]

Prominent figures are not the only targets in kidnap-for-ransom schemes. A tribal elder based in Karachi explained that dozens of truck drivers working in the city have paid billions of rupees in ransom money after militants kidnapped their family members who were living in South Waziristan and Mohmand tribal areas.[35] In these cases, ransom demands range from about $10,000 to $50,000.[36]

In an interview with the BBC, one purported member of the Taliban in Karachi said that the group gets financial help from “university students and college students. Big businessmen also support us and help us. We cannot mention their names. People give freely.”[37] The Taliban member, who claimed to be in the group’s finance department, said “donations” amount to $80,000 per month in the Karachi area.[38] The BBC report suggested that what the Taliban call “donations,” others call “bhatta,” or protection money to prevent Taliban attacks.[39] Truck drivers who transport NATO supplies from Karachi to the border regularly pay protection money to the Taliban to prevent attacks on their convoys or families.

Conclusion : 

Karachi’s role as a shelter for al-Qa`ida and Taliban militants is clear. Yet the extent of the Taliban’s support network in the city, and its attempts to recruit educated students from the city’s many universities, is deeper than commonly reported. Recruits who receive university level training in Applied Physics and similar disciplines likely pose a bigger threat than other new fighters. Separately, Karachi’s role as Pakistan’s financial hub is also at risk should al-Qa`ida and the Taliban escalate their fundraising attempts—such as kidnap-for-ransom and other extortion schemes—in the city.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and researcher and covers the militancy in Pakistan. He has written for several international and national publications including The Friday Times, Central Asia Online, The Jamestown Foundation, Himal South Asian and The News International, and contributed to the New York Times.

[1] Personal interview, militant linked to the TTP in Karachi, Pakistan, January 5, 2012.

[2] Pamela Constable, “Bombing and Fire Disrupt a Fragile Peace in Karachi, Pakistan,” Washington Post, January 4, 2010.

[3] “Karachi Contributes 60-70pc of Revenue,” The Nation, July 25, 2010.

[4] Personal interview, Khan Dil Khan Niazi, a leader of Karachi’s truck association, Karachi, Pakistan, May 10, 2012. After a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011,Pakistan blocked NATO’s road-bound supply routes into Afghanistan.

[5] Zia Ur Rehman, “Demographic Divide,” Friday Times, July 15-21, 2011.

[6] Personal interview, ChaudryAslam Khan, head of the Anti-Extremism Cell (AEC), Karachi Police, Karachi, Pakistan, June 2, 2012.

[7] Zia Ur Rehman, “Karachi’s New Terrorist Groups,” Friday Times, January 6-12, 2012.

[8] In the past decade, a number of high-profile al-Qa`ida and Taliban leaders have been arrested in Karachi. These include, but are not limited to, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abdu Ali Sharqawi, Ammar al-Balochi, Walid Mohammad Salih bin Attash, Jack Thomas, Majid Khan and Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. See Rehman, “Karachi’s New Terrorist Groups.”

[9] Personal interview, senior police official who runs anti-militancy operations, Karachi, Pakistan, June 15, 2012.

[10] “Profiling the Violence in Karachi,” Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), Islamabad, Pakistan, July-September 2009.

[11] Salman Siddiqui, “After KU Student Arrested on Terror Suspicion, Time for an Examination on Campus,” Express Tribune, May 14, 2011.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “Punjabi Muhahideen Involved in KU Blast Held,” The News International, January 14, 2011.

[14] Tahir Siddique, “Dr Akmal Facing Trial in UAE, High Court Told,” Dawn, August 20, 2011.

[15] Ali K. Chishti, “Jundullah, the New al-Qaeda,” Daily Times, September 7, 2010.

[16] “Punjabi Muhahideen Involved in KU Blast Held.”

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Siddiqui.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Javed Mahmood, “Jihadi Literature Distributed in Karachi Universities,” Central Asia Online, December 13, 2010; Javed Mahmood, “Al-Qaeda Distributes Thumb Drives to Teach Bomb Making,” Central Asia Online, December 13, 2010.

[23] Kalbe Ali, “Jamaat Factor in Saga of the Missing,” Dawn, February 24, 2012.

[24] Chishti.

[25] Ibid.

[26]  Ali.

[27] Ibid.

[28] “Karachi: 11,000 Foreigners in Sindh Madaris,” Dawn, January 16, 2003.

[29] “Taliban’s Brisk Trade of Kidnapping in Karachi,” BBC, March 23, 2012.

[30] Central Asia Online, May 21, 2012.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid.

[33] Faraz Khan, “Satish Anand Released from Captivity After 6 Months,” Daily Times, April 13, 2009.

[34] “Three Alleged Taliban Militants Killed in Karachi Encounter,” The News International, December 6, 2011.

[35] Personal interview, Karachi-based political activist belonging to South Waziristan Agency, Karachi, Pakistan, July 18, 2012.

[36] Ibid.

[37] “Taliban’s Brisk Trade of Kidnapping in Karachi.”

[38] Ibid.

[39] Ibid.

by Zia Ur Rehman

April 23, 2012

Jamiat-i-Ulama-i-Islam-Fazlur (JUI-F) is one of the leading Islamist political parties in Pakistan. The JUI-F is considered ideologically similar to the Taliban, and the party is popular in northwest Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP) and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Yet in the past four years, several activists and leaders of the JUI-F have been targeted and killed in KP and FATA by unidentified Islamist militants. Even the JUI-F’s right-wing leader, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, has been targeted in two failed assassination attempts.[1]

Although no group has claimed credit for the attacks, analysts believe that the operations have been executed by irreconcilable Pakistani militant groups that disapprove of the JUI-F’s “appeasement” policies. These include the JUI-F’s decision to support the present ruling coalition in Islamabad, which is carrying out military operations against Pakistani Taliban groups in FATA,[2] as well as the party’s reported attempts to engage the United States on peace talks for the war in Afghanistan.[3]

Attacks against the JUI-F can be dated to 2008, when the JUI-F became part of Pakistan’s coalition government after participating in the country’s general elections. The JUI-F took control of three federal ministries as part of the coalition. By partaking in democracy, the JUI-F appears to have turned its former patrons in the Pakistani Taliban into enemies.

This article profiles the JUI-F and examines the party’s ties to Pakistani and Afghan Taliban factions. It also explains why Taliban factions have turned against a party that, to outside observers, appeared to be an ally.

A Profile of JUI-F
The JUI-F, led by Maulana Fazlur Rahman, is Pakistan’s leading religious political party. It follows the Deobandi movement within Sunni Islam, and it is the most influential organization in Pakistan calling for a “pure Islamic state.” It primarily functions as an “electoral party” where success in elections, no matter how limited, provides the party the opportunity to form governments at the provincial level as well as have a presence in federal cabinets. This gives the party resources and power.[4]

The JUI-F has a firm organizational structure, and it has widespread support in KP, FATA and Baluchistan Province. Indeed, it is considered Pakistan’s only political party that has a strong organizational structure in the volatile tribal areas. Much of the party’s support derives from its connections to northwest Pakistan’s network of madrasas (religious seminaries).[5]

The JUI-F has influence with many of Pakistan’s militant groups, including those led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Waliur Rahman Mehsud.[6] In June 2010, for example, the JUI-F pressured the government to release approximately 300 alleged Taliban members from prison, as the men were also JUI-F party members.[7]

The party is known for its close ties to Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime. Demonstrating the connection between the groups, on October 26, 2011, the Afghan Taliban issued an unprecedented condolence statement for the death of Maulana Abdul Ghani, a deputy leader of JUI-F  who died in a car accident in Baluchistan Province.[8] Members of the Afghan Taliban leadership were also in attendance at Abdul Ghani’s funeral.[9]

Nevertheless, although the JUI-F is linked to Taliban militant groups operating in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, the party has never openly supported sectarianism and violent jihad. As a result, many leaders terminated their association with the JUI-F after differences erupted over issues of sectarianism and violence in the 1980s and 1990s and then formed their own militant organizations—such as Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), Harkat-ul-Mujahidin (HuM) and Jaysh-i-Muhammad (JM). All of these organizations are now declared banned by the government.[10]

The JUI-F itself is one of three splinter groups. One faction, known as Jamiat-i-Ulama-i-Islam-Samiul Haq (JUI-S), was formed by Maulana Samiul Haq in the mid-1980s after Rahman refused to support the military ruler at the time, Ziaul Haq. Samiul Haq is commonly referred to as the “Father of the Afghan Taliban” due to his leadership of the Darul Uloom Haqqania madrasa in Akora Khattak, from where many of the top leaders of the Afghan Taliban movement, including Mullah Omar, graduated.[11]

Another faction, Jamiat-i-Ulama-Islam-Nazariati (JUI-N), was formed by hardcore pro-Taliban leaders of the JUI-F in Baluchistan Province in the 2008 general elections. This splinter group complained that the JUI-F leadership had abandoned the preaching of “jihad” and had stopped supporting the Afghan Taliban.[12] Incidentally, the JUI-N, led by Maulana Asmatullah, a member of parliament from Baluchistan, was the first religious party that organized a protest rally on May 2, 2011 in Quetta to pay homage to slain al-Qa`ida chief Usama bin Ladin. The JUI-N, unlike the JUI-F, is openly supportive of the Afghan Taliban.

Attacks on JUI-F Leaders
After the JUI-F’s successes in the 2008 general elections, many Taliban militants appeared to turn against the party. From 2008 forward, Pakistani Taliban groups began to execute suicide attacks against the JUI-F’s leadership. Dozens of JUI-F leaders, including former parliamentarians, have since been killed.[13]

Most recently, on January 25, 2012, Haji Gul Rahman Afridi, the former local chief of the JUI-F in the Landi Kotal area of Khyber Agency in FATA, was shot to death in the Shahi Bagh area of Peshawar by unidentified assailants.[14] Another JUI-F leader and former mayor, Haji Muhammad Azeem, was killed on January 3, 2012, in the Naverkhel area of Lakki Marwat District of KP.[15]

Maulana Merajuddin, a former member of parliament from South Waziristan Agency and head of the JUI-F in the FATA region, was shot dead in May 2010 in Tank District of KP.[16] Merajuddin was a key figure in the government’s talks with tribal elders and militants, and he helped to broker peace deals in South Waziristan Agency in 2005 and 2007. Maulana Salimullah, a leader of the JUI-F, was shot dead by unidentified assailants in Karak District of KP on May 29, 2010.[17]

Similarly, another former member of parliament from South Waziristan Agency, Maulana Noor Muhammad Wazir, was killed along with 30 other people in a suicide attack at a mosque in Wana in South Waziristan on August 24, 2010.[18] Muhammad was also an influential figure who had several times acted as a negotiator between the Pakistani Taliban and the government, but was opposed to the presence of Uzbek militants in the region, providing support to dislodge them.[19]

Haji Khan Afzal, the former district mayor of Hangu District in KP and a central leader of the JUI-F, was killed on September 18, 2009, when a bomb ripped through a mosque in Kach Bazaar Killay in Hangu. Afzal played an important role in freeing government employees and others kidnapped by the TTP during and after clashes with Pakistan’s security forces in the Doaba area of Kohat District in 2009.

Then, in 2012, the most egregious attacks on the JUI-F occurred. On March 30, militants attempted to assassinate JUI-F head Fazlur Rahman near Swabi District in KP. The following day in Charsadda District, militants again tried to assassinate Rahman. Both attempts failed.

Although political killings are part of Pakistan’s history, attacks on the pro-Taliban JUI-F—especially on Rahman himself—are especially peculiar. The assassination attempts on Rahman came days after leaked U.S. State Department cables revealed that the JUI-F leader purportedly wanted to mediate between the United States and the Afghan Taliban in 2007. After this disclosure, Afghan Taliban militants and the al-Qa`ida leadership reportedly decided to sever links with the JUI-F.[20] Some experts believe that this development could be one of the causes for the attempts on Rahman’s life. Other analysts believe that the attacks on the JUI-F’s leadership are a result of a growing ideological divide among Pakistani Taliban militants concerning the legitimacy of the Pakistani state. Pakistani Taliban militants openly denounce democracy and label the Pakistani state “un-Islamic,” while the JUI-F supports democratic means as well as the authority of the Pakistani state.[21] Indeed, it participated in the ruling coalition government.

It is difficult to say which factions among the Pakistani Taliban have an interest in attacking the JUI-F. The North Waziristan-based militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur, however, condemned the attacks and announced that an investigation will be conducted into the assassination attempts.[22] Security analysts believe that the TTP may be behind the attacks, as it is thought that the TTP’s relationship with the JUI-F has deteriorated over the last five years, and that the JUI-F has reduced some of its political support to the Taliban in general. As a result, the TTP and other Taliban groups have viewed the JUI-F’s actions as a betrayal, and have attacked its leaders and activists.[23]

The JUI-F’s members have also reportedly become concerned about the “new Taliban” leaders in Pakistan who do not seem to appreciate the party’s long-standing contribution to the Taliban’s cause.[24] Attacks on public rallies and the killing of JUI-F leaders have likely caused the party to rethink its support to Taliban militants of all factions going forward.

It is pertinent to mention that the JUI-F has not joined the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC)—an alliance of religious parties—formed after a NATO airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November 2011.[25] After the incident, Pakistan blocked NATO’s road-bound supply routes into Afghanistan. The DPC and Taliban militant groups opposed the resumption of NATO supply convoys to Afghanistan, yet on April 12 Pakistan’s parliament recommended allowing the convoys to continue. After a meeting among JUI-F chief Rahman, U.S. ambassador Cameron Munter and President Asif Ali Zardari, the JUI-F reluctantly approved of the decision.[26]

These actions show that the JUI-F is now acting on the policy of adopting democratic and parliamentary politics instead of supporting militant and jihadist groups.

The attacks on JUI-F’s leaders reveal intra-jihadist struggles in Pakistan. It also suggests that the JUI-F, Pakistan’s largest Islamist political party, has likely reduced its support to Taliban militants of all factions. The attacks on JUI-F’s rallies and leaders have compelled the party to present a more moderate face in public, criticizing the Taliban for un-Islamic acts and denouncing suicide attacks. Although the JUI-F draws much of its support from the more conservative and religious sections of Pakistan, this base does not necessarily support the violent actions of the Taliban.

Additionally, the unwillingness of the JUI-F to join the DPC is also an indication that the party is interested in pursuing democracy in Pakistan rather than increasing its support to banned militant groups and right-wing parties.

Zia Ur Rehman is a journalist and researcher and covers the militancy in Pakistan. He has written for several international and national publications including The Friday Times, Central Asia Online, The Jamestown Foundation, Himal South Asian and The News International and contributed to the New York Times.

[1] Javed Aziz Khan, “March 31 Charsadda Attack,” The News International, April 2, 2011.

[2] Manzoor Ali and Qaiser Butt, “Charsadda Strike: Second Target Attack on Maulana Fazlur Rehman,” Express Tribune, April 1, 2011.

[3] “Wikileak: Fazlur Rehman’s Votes Were ‘Up to Sale,’” Express Tribune, June 1, 2011.

[4] “Islamic Parties in Pakistan,” International Crisis Group, December 16, 2011.

[5] Personal interview, Ahmed Wali, journalist based in Karachi, March 3, 2012.

[6] Hafiz Gul Bahadur is a Taliban militant commander operating in North Waziristan Agency, while Waliur Rehman Mehsud is the chief of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan’s South Waziristan Agency chapter. Personal interview, anonymous journalist based in Bannu, March 6, 2011.

[7] Zia Khan, “Govt to Set Free over 300 JUI-F Activists,” Express Tribune, June 14, 2010.

[8] Syed Shoaib Hassan, “Rare Taliban Praise for Pakistan’s Maulana Abdul Ghani,” BBC, October 27, 2011.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Personal interview, Ahmed Wali, March 3, 2012.

[11] “Islamic Parties in Pakistan,” International Crisis Group, December 16, 2011.

[12] Personal interview, Hafiz Fazal Barech, a leader of the JUI-N, November 12, 2011.

[13] Tom Hussain, “New to Pakistan’s Taliban-heavy Tribal Areas: Political Campaigns,” Christian Science Monitor, January 31, 2011.

[14] “JUI-F Leader Shot Dead in Peshawar,” Dawn, January 26, 2012.

[15] “JUI-F Leader Killed Near Naverkhel,” The Nation, January 3, 2012.

[16] “Peace Broker Gunned Down in Pakistan,” UPI, May 21, 2010.

[17] “JUI-F Leader Gunned Down in Karak,” Daily Times, June 1, 2011.

[18] “South Waziristan Tense After Cleric’s Killing,” Daily Times, August 25, 2010.

[19] Manzoor Ali, “Bomber Targets ex MNA in Wana,” Express Tribune, August 24, 2010.

[20] In the words of one former Taliban official, “Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who has been an ally of the Pervez Musharraf regime and is also a partner in the present ruling coalition, had strong contacts with militant groups in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan but nobody did even imagine until now that he is constantly in touch with the Americans also.” See Mazhar Tufail, “Fazlur Rehman Getting Isolated After Wikileaks Exposure,” The News International, December 8, 2010.

[21] Personal interview, Ahmed Wali, March 3, 2012.

[22] Pazir Gul, “Militant Leader to Investigate Attack of Fazl,” Dawn, April 5, 2011.

[23] Nicholas Schmidle, “Next-Gen Taliban,” New York Times, January 6, 2008.

[24] The JUI-F played a key role in the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad of the 1980s. Yet the current leadership of the Pakistani Taliban was too young to participate in the Afghan jihad, and as a result they do not appear to respect the JUI-F’s contribution to that cause.

[25] For a detailed analysis of the DPC, see Arif Rafiq, “The Emergence of the Difa-e-Pakistan Islamist Coalition,” CTC Sentinel 5:3 (2012).

[26] Raja Asghar, “No Arms Conduit, Green Signal for Non-Lethal Nato Supplies,” Dawn, April 13, 2012.