AIR MARSHAL (Retd) AYAZ AHMED KHAN
After the rout of Swat Taliban, and the death of Baiullah Mehsud, the Taliban sponsored terrorism in Pakistan has lost its sting. But the terrorists remain entrenched in Waziristan, and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has threatened to continue suicide bombings, killings and arson. On August 27 the bombing of a security post near the Afghan border and death of 20 FC soldiers; on August 30 the death of twenty police cadets in the suicide bombing of the Mingora Police Training Center; provides evidence of terrorists motives and capability. The heartless gunning down of school children in the Khyber Agency, and torching of petrol tankers, proves that terrorism is around, and needs sustained government and public effort and determined military action to weed out the killers. The terrorists will continue to mount attacks from their safe heavens in Waziristan, which need to be identified and neutralized.
With the on going Army, FC and Vigilante (Lashkars) operations, the defeated Swat terrorists are unlikely to surface to challenge the writ of the state, but could launch guerrilla attacks and bombings. They are on the run, and are being hunted down by the security forces, and the pro-government lashkars. This policy in Swat should continue till terrorists are eliminated. But the terrorists in North and South Wazirstan, Orakzai, Khyber and in some areas of Bajaur Agency numbering around twentyfive thousand are regrouping around the new TTP leadership led by Hakimullah Mehsud. Tentacles of Tehrik-e-Taliban have spread. The Bombay terrorism, attack on the Sri Lanka cricket team and spate of Taliban attacks in Lahore, proves that TTP tentacles have spread into south Punjab. TTP and Tamil terrorists could have joined hands in the attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team. The changed dimension of the threat, is the countrywide dispersal of Taliban, especially in the Pukhtunkwa and Punjab cities, and cooperation with the al-Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. The increasing cooperation with frustrated Punjabi youth in Southern Punjab, should be a matter of concern. TTP's possible cooperation with Tamil Tigers must be investigated into.
After the August 05 death of Baitullah Mehsud, and with the fire fights between some factions, and assassinations of some key TTP commanders, it appeared that TTP will implode. But with the appointment of Hakimullah Mehsud as Amir by the Tehrik-Taliban Shoora, with the blessing of Taliban Amir-Al-Mominin Mulla Omar on August 26, the TTP power-struggle is over for the moment. With Mullah Omar's blessing Hakimullah is in the saddle. With plans for greater cooperation with the Afghanistan Taliban, his actions must be carefully watched. Alive he is as dangerous as Baitullah Mehsud. The 29 year-old new TTP Amir heads gangs of wantonly brutal bands of cut throat murderers, totaling over twenty five thousand.They are well armed, and experienced in suicide bombings, guerrilla attacks, ambushes, kidnapping for ransom, extortion, and murders. What is their common bond? It is not Islam, it is crime, making illegal money from warlords and contractors by blackmail and extortion. It is monetary reward from Afghan Taliban, drug mafias and enemy agents to create mayhem and anarchy. The way they have been bombing mosques during Friday prayers, and launching suicide bombers to massacre hundreds of fellow Pushtuns, and Pakistani citizens proves that they are paid brainwashed barbarians, who must be eliminated to save the Pakistani nation. They are violent, intolerant and trigger happy.
After the success in Swat and Malakand, the military inaction in North and South Waziristan, has given them time to regroup, re-equip and evolve a new strategy, to hit with greater ferocity. There is wisdom in Pakistani military plan to soften the insurgents by air action, plug their supply lines, create local Lashkar's to erode Taliban unity and capability, try to to dissuade teenagers from Taliban machinations at brainwashing and using young Pushtun's as gun-fodder for suicide bombings. It is hoped that the plan for military operations in rugged Waiziristan has taken into account that the hardy Taliban fighters will have the advantage that the mountainous terrain offers. Besides blockading their supply lines, it is important to identify their funds and gun suppliers, and to eliminate them.
Hakimullah Mehsud will follow his dead mentor's policies of death, destruction, arson, extortion and kidnapping. It is too early to asses his capability, acumen and desire to expand the TTP movement by bringing other militant groups into its fold? With the Pakistani government determined to wipe out militancy and terrorism, and the armed forces prepared and motivated to annihilate insurgent terrorists, Hakimullah Mehsud and his cohorts must not be given time to recuperate, reorganize and rearm. The brutal bands of criminals hiding in caves in Waziristan,and other FATA Agencies must be brought to justice as soon as possible.
Some mediamen and "human right pundits", and television journalists who had traveled to Hakimullah's -controlled part of the Orakzai tribal agency in November last year, appear to have a soft corner for the new TTP leader. He is being introduced as the ‘young turk’ whose " views on religion and politics and his ambition to take the terrorist movement beyond FATA to mainland Pakistan, is plausible. One journalist described," that his cold looks and wry smile left little doubt that he may not think twice before killing anyone." He has chopped more heads of Pakistani security personnel than any other terrorist including Maulvi Fazalullah."Yet he was intelligent enough to grasp the significance and power of the media and tried to make the maximum of the presence of Pakistani television teams to express his views on issues ranging from the situation in Afghanistan, to TTP’s links with Mullah Omar and his Taliban movement, to Pakistan’s political scene, particularly his views about the Awami National Party. It was not difficult to see how much he hated the ANP." He is an enemy of Pakistani people, must be treated as such by the media. Having slit throats of defenseless young soldiers and civilians, Hakimullah wants to present himself as a modern man. He know's a lot about weapons, munitions, explosives, guns and machines. So, while at one point he sought the camera men’s indulgence while showing off by speeding around in a Humvee that his men had captured during a raid on a convoy of American vehicles in the Khyber Agency, an hour later he invited the journalists to participate in a gun-shooting competition. The journalists were impressed. Orakzai Agency like North and South Waziristan are safe heavens for the Taliban, and the more time Hakimullah Mehsud gets to reinforce, harder it will be to dislodge the Taliban from the difficult terrain of North and South Waziristan.
Pakistani and foreign media are ‘image-building ’ Hakimullah Mehsud as a future leader of the Tehrik Taliban Pakistan. Hakimullah Mehsud has started spreading his wings. Baitullah Mehsud had given him charge of three tribal agencies. He had gained a foothold in Orakzai Agency, was involved in supporting the local Taliban in Kurram to kill the Shia citizens, and was making his presence felt in Khyber. The military action against insurgents in Bara-Khyber Agency, must be followed by intelligence assessments of Taliban capabilities, i.e.strength and deployment in the above four agencies and intentions. He is more ambitious than his predecessor who mostly remained confined to South Waziristan, Hakimullah explained to the Pakistani correspondents his expansionist designs. "If the Pakistan government continues with its policy of following American diktat, (some day) we can even try to capture Peshawar, Hangu and even Islamabad, we have the strength to do it", he said. This threat must be taken seriously. Hakimullah is loyal to Mullah Omar and openly praised the Al-Qaeda, which seemingly funds the TTP. "We are Al Qaeda’s friends as both us the Taliban and the Arab fighters have shown our allegiance to Amir-ul-Momineen Mullah Omar of Afghanistan, but there is no Al Qaeda in South Waziristan."
Hakimullah’s nomination as the new TTP chief would be worrisome for Pakistani authorities, but more so for the NWFP government. Hakimullah is not a traditional mullah, as he does not have a proper degree from a religious school. However, he knows how to exploit Pakhtuns’ religious as well as nationalist sentiments. "We do not give two hoots to Awami National Party’s tirade against Taliban," Hakimullah had said in the interview. "We can have an agreement with all the political parties but not with ANP," he said. While ridiculing the ANP in his typical style, Hakimullah was unable to hide his desire to expand the scope of his activities by claiming that once the ANP used to say that like them the Taliban too were Pakhtuns, but the way the situation was developing the ANP might soon take back its claim to be representatives of the Pakhtuns" says Hakimullah. Hakimullah Mehsud now heads the powerful Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. He is ambitions, and will try to weld the fourteen groups of the Taliban under the flag of a more united Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. The more time he gets may mean more trouble for the Pakistani authorities, and certainly for the ANP-led government in the NWFP.
These hoards may call themselves Taliban but are in fact War Lords, Smugglers and Crimminals. My information is that the Afghan taliban have distanced themselves from these terrorists.As for Hakim Ullah, he is a born militant and will be very difficult to tame.