LAHORE - The top leadership of Samiul Haq’s JUI has made first formal contact with Taliban Shura (council), playing as a facilitator in government’s bid to secure peace through talks with the militants.
However, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has not immediately responded to the JUI’s contacts, according to sources.
Samiul Haq is known as father of the Taliban as he and his associates had played a key role in raising and training militants for fighting against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, and in the latter years, his group has maintained close association with the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban.
Ending violence through negotiations with the extremists is a key component of Nawaz government’s national security policy, which has almost been finalised but is yet to be formally announced. But the government is also under pressure to deal with the militants with an iron hand in the face of their unrelenting attacks on the state forces and the civilians.
Informed sources told this correspondent on Friday that top leadership of the JUI-S has initiated first formal contact with the TTP executive body.
One of the major troubles is that the TTP is not a single entity but an umbrella organisation of 43 independent groups of militants, some of which are much opposed to the very idea of talks with the government. The sources said that JUI-S leadership could seek help of the Afghan Taliban leadership if some of the TTP leaders refused to advance the peace process due to their internal differences.
Close aides of Sami, when contacted to get a better picture of the development, confirmed that contact has been made with the TTP but they declined to provide any detail saying it has been decided by party high command that nothing would be made public until they achieved a major breakthrough as the previous initiatives of peace have been sabotaged by anti-peace forces.
JUI-S central spokesman Asim Makhdom also confirmed the first formal contact with TTP leadership. When asked about internal rifts among the TTP, he insisted that Maulvi Fazlullah was the uncontroversial ‘ameer’ of the 43-member TTP coalition.
Makhdom said that nobody could say with certainty that recent militant acts attributed to TTP member groups have in fact been carried out by them. About the assassination of CID Karachi head Ch Aslam, claimed by a group calling itself TTP Mohmand Group, he maintained, “You never know if the acts of militancy or terror being carried out in the name of Taliban are carried out by them or not.”
Some sources claimed that neither JUI-S nor any other religious force in the mainstream politics has any say with the influential and strong groups of TTP, led by nascent commanders tilted towards the Afghan Taliban.
But Makhdom insisted that JUI-S enjoys much support in North and South Waziristan, as many of the TTP leaders, including TTP amir Maulvi Fazlullah and Umer Khalid Khurasani, are former students of their seminaries. He said their party has a long line of madaris in the entire tribal belt and besides contacts with TTP high command, their emissaries in the whole region are also in a constant contact with TTP’s second and third tier leadership. “We are expecting good news soon in this regard.”
Former Fata secretary Brigadier (r) Mehmood Shah, who is a security expert, when contacted, said, “I don’t think the JUI-S enjoys a meaningful influence among Pakistani outfit of the Taliban as both JUI-S or JUI-Fazl have become irrelevant among the new and young lot of TTP for many reasons.” Brigadier (r) Amirullah Tarar, known among the Afghan freedom fighters as Colonel Imam, should not have been assassinated by the TTP if JUI-S and Haqqani Network had any influence over the Pakistani Taliban, he remarked.
Shah said that TTP was bleeding internally due to rifts within, as the umbrella group, founded by Mehsud tribesmen, didn’t like Maulvi Fazlullah being the chief of something they created and led until the death of Hakimullah Mehsud. He claimed that Fazlullah was operating from Afghanistan and might not come to Fata fearing the opposition from within his own faction. “Though I wish that peace negotiation start but I don’t see any JUI-S initiative bearing fruit,” he added.
Political observers in the tribal belt are of the opinion that all the forces ideologically close to the TTP leadership should be given a joint task to bring the Pakistani Taliban to the negotiating table, with a major role to the JUI-S along with the JUI-F.
It was reported from tribal areas after the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud that there had been serious differences over the leadership of Fazlullah among the Mehsuds. However, in a bid to cover internal rifts the Mehsuds apparently swallowed the bitter pill for the time being and they are waiting for an appropriate time to recapture the top position.
Fazlullah, in a bid to sideline his opposition in the TTP, had replaced close aides of the slain Hakimullah Mehsud with his own men. As a result of such steps, militants from Mehsud and Bhittani tribes are feeling more resentment and bitterness. Asmatullah Bhittani, also known as Asmatullah Shaheen, had been replaced by Khalid Haqqani as Shura head. Whereas Said Khan Sajna, expected to be successor of Waliur Rahman was replaced by Sheheryar Mehsud. Sheheryar is believed to be a rival of both Waliur Rahman and Hakimullah Mehsud.