I write from Pakistan, where two news items catch my eye. First a report in Dawn that says a new anti-Baitullah Mehsud alliance has come into being in South Waziristan, headed by Ikhlas Khan (also known as Waziristan Baba), but also including the Turkistan Bhittani faction and the Haji Tehsil Khan Wazir factions.
The report says the new group has already established offices in the Gomal, Umar Adda, Jandola, Pang and Sheikh Autar areas of South Waziristan. It adds that Waziristan Baba believes Baitullah was behind the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and that he would avenge the killings of innocent people by Baitullah. "Those who destroy hospitals and schools and kill our brothers and sisters are not our well-wishers," he is quoted as saying.
The new alliance follows the recent assassination of Qari Zainuddin (see my previous post on this subject), who had been urging tribesmen to rise up against Baitullah and the Tehreek-e-Taliban. It will be named the Abdullah Mehsud Alliance - the same name used by Qari Zainuddin for his organisation.
A second item that caught my eye, also in Dawn, refers to four bodies found on the Tank-Jandola road in South Waziristan yesterday. The bodies included two sons of Gul Pir, a Baitullah Mehsud commander who was himself killed in an army operation in the Sheikh Utar area three days ago.
The report does not say who killed them, but adds the following: "According to sources, incidents of target killing are taking place in the town of Tank and adjoining areas and Baitullah's men are at the receiving end. It may be added that earlier the Baitullah group virtually ruled the area but now it is under the control of its adversary, Turkistan Bhittani."
This is clearly an important development. Is the tide beginning to turn against Baitullah in his heartland? And who are the assassins?