ISLAMABAD - Arrest of a key Al-Qaeda operative and TTP's former second-in-command Maulvi Faqir Mohammad by Afghan forces on February 21 has turned out to be a mystery, sources said on Monday.
"He is not among those Pakistanis captured in Afghanistan,” credible Afghan diplomatic sources in Pakistan told The Nation, adding that investigation continues to establish identity of these individuals. On the other hand, a senior Afghan intelligence official with the name Abdullah had confirmed the capture of five Pakistanis including Maulvi Faqir Mohammad.
"Maulvi Faqir and his four accomplices who had entered Nangarhar from Bajaur Agency were apprehended near Basawal on Torkham Road near the border of Khyber Agency's Tirah Valley," the intelligence official told a foreign newswire on the same day.
"They were traveling in a vehicle when (we) intercepted near Basawal village of Nangarhar," he added.
"Yes I can confirm their names as they had told us. Maulvi Faqir, Shahid Umar, Maulana Hakeemullah Bajauri, Mualana Turabi and Fateh are the people who have been arrested," he replied when asked about the identity of the arrested people.
This development prompted Pakistan's Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar who immediately talked to her Afghan counterpart and sought custody of Maulvi Faqir and his associates apprehended by Afghan security forces.
In his weekly press briefing, foreign ministry spokesperson Moazzam Khan told reporters that Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was informed of Faqir's capture by her Afghan counterpart Zalmai Rassoul in a telephonic conversation late on Wednesday.
"We hope that he (Faqir) would be handed over to Pakistan as soon as possible because he has the blood of many innocent Pakistanis on his hands," Khan said at the briefing.
Maulvi Faqir was the deputy amir (second-in-command) of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Taliban chief in Bajaur Agency, but was later removed from his position in March 2012 on suspicions of entering into a peace deal with the Pakistani government.
Faqir Muhammad, who hails from Chopatra Village of Bajaur Agency, was first part of the Tehreek-i-Nifaz-i-Shariat-i-Muhammadi, and later the deputy chief of TTP until March 2012 when he announced himself as the TTP chief after the death of Baitullah Mehsud. Faqir had also publicly accepted his ties with al-Qaeda network and had been accused of a number of cross-border attacks in Bajaur Agency and the settled Lower and Upper Dir district.