Tuesday 3 January 2012

Pak Taliban factions unite under pressure

According to reports coming from Pakistan, a new organisation called the Shura-e-Murakbah, made up of the remnants of what was once the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), has been created in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas.
The factions include those TTP remnants led by Hakimullah Mahsud, the South Waziristan faction of the same organisation led by Waliur Rehman Mahsud, the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, Mullah Nazir's group and the Haqqani Network.
Its five members, according to Dawn newspaper, are Maulvi Azmatullah (representing the Waliur Rehman faction), Maulvi Noor Saeed (Taliban commander in Barwan representing Hakimullah), Maulvi Saeedullah (Haqqani Network), Maulvi Sadar Hayat (Hafiz Gul Bahadar) and Hafeez Amir Hamza (Mullah Nazir Group).
The Shura-e-Murakbah, besides dedicating itself to fighting the US-led forces in Afghanistan, has also promised to end kidnappings and other criminal activities in tribal areas, stating: “All Mujahideen, local and foreigners, are informed that they should desist from killing and kidnapping for ransom innocent people and cooperate with this committee in curbing crimes. If any Mujahid is found involved in unjustified killings, crimes and other illegal activities he will be answerable to Shura-i-Murakbah and will be punished in accordance with the Shariah law,” a statement issued on Monday by the new organisation says. It is a promise that is unlikely to be honoured for very long if past history is any guide.
It is well-known that Hakimullah and Waliur Rehman loathe each other and that other factions are also deeply divided. This meeting and alleged agreement looks more like a last-ditch effort to prevent serious fighting breaking out amongst the various factions.
According to a report in the Long War Journal by Bill Roggio, the deal was brokered by al-Qaeda leader Abu Yahya al Libi, along with Sirajuddin Haqqani and Mullah Mansour from Eastern Afghanistan. Mullah Muhammad Omar is said to have played an important role in pressuring the factions to come to an agreement - although in the past his pleas have fallen on deaf ears - most notably, when Hakimullah went ahead with the killing of Colonel Imam, despite pleas from Mullah Omar and other jihadi leaders.
Despite press reports to the contrary, the new shura has not agreed to stop attacking the Pakistani armed forces. A spokesman for the shura said it would target "Americans and their allies in Pakistan, as well as Afghanistan."
The timing of the formation of this new organisation is clearly significant and reflects in part the growing dissatisfaction amongst many tribal fighters with Hakimullah Mahsud's leadership of the TTP. He is increasingly isolated and detested for his cruelty and poor leadership.
However, it is also significant that its formation was announced just as the Afghan Taliban have reached a critical juncture in their discussions with the Karzai government. It cannot be a coincidence that the Afghan Taliban announced this week the opening of a representative office in Qatar.
Three points should be drawn from this news: first, that al-Qaeda is still an important player - and, more importantly, financier - of the various jihadi factions in Pakistan. That is why they are at the table; second, support by Mullah Omar for this unification move may have more to do with unfolding events in Afghanistan than with a concern for uniting the notoriously unruly Pashtun tribes in Pakistan; and third, don't put any money on this agreement holding up for any length of time.
One final point: Murakbah is an Islamic term that is usually used within the Sufi community. It is an Arabic word which means "to watch over", "to take care of", or "to keep an eye on". In the Sufi context it implies that with meditation, a person watches over or takes care of his spiritual heart (or soul), and acquires knowledge about it, its surroundings, and its creator. Thus Shura-e-Murakbah would mean something like 'the Oversight Committee'.

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