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Maulvi Faqir’s sacking indicates TTP rift over peace talks, analysts say
TTP’s deputy amir likely favoured negotiations
By Zahir Shah
PESHAWAR – The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leadership, adamant about not entering into peace talks with the Pakistani government, sacked its deputy amir for offering an olive branch to the government, observers say.
The TTP executive council, chaired by chief Hakimullah Mehsud, decided to demote Maulvi Faqir Muhammad to an ordinary member, the News reported March 5.
Faqir, of Bajaur Agency, paid the price for peace overtures and for standing on the “wrong” side of a rift in the TTP Shura, those analysts contend.
However, he also had long-standing serious differences with Mehsud, they add.
“I don’t know officially ... what to say about the causes,” Faqir told Central Asia Online from an undisclosed location March 8.
“I have come to know through your media that I have been sacked by the Shura, but tell me which Shura,” he parried when asked about his firing.
The TTP is terming the dismissal an internal matter.
“You know it’s an internal issue, but the media is politicising it,” Mukkram Khurasani, TTP spokesman in Mohmand Agency, told Central Asia Online. “Maulvi Faqir has been relieved of his responsibilities by amir Hakimullah Mehsud and soon he will be given a new assignment.”
“Hakimullah and the Shura will soon be announcing the new deputy amir ... within due course,” he added.
Khurasani reiterated the TTP’s stance of not entering peace talks “as it would be undermining the Taliban’s efforts for Sharia Law and would betray our martyrs.”
A splintered group
Asked about his contacts to talk peace with the government, Faqir admitted, “I think peace efforts are good and there is no harm in holding talks for the good.”
The fact that Faqir might have wanted peace in Bajaur Agency and might have engaged in talks with the government would have been both unacceptable to Hakimullah and his Shura, theorised Khalid Aziz, former chief secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and an analyst of tribal affairs and militancy.
However, the most important lesson to draw, Khalid said, is that the TTP is no longer cohesive. Commanders are plotting their own courses, and Faqir could well be negotiating with the government without representing the TTP, he said.
“The reason for Maulvi Faqir’s removal as deputy amir in my opinion is that Hakimullah ... did not want (the pro-peace) Faqir anymore in the main Taliban Shura,” Khalid said. “The TTP leadership doesn’t want Maulvi Faqir to sit in the Shura and know about its affairs.”
Faqir’s sacking indicates that one faction of the TTP wants to carry out activities inside Pakistan and another does not, said Ijaz Khan, chairman of the University of Peshawar Department of International Relations.
Personal antagonism was involved
Long-standing enmity between Faqir and Hakimullah was another factor, said Brig. Mehmood Shah, former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) secretary of security and architect of the first-ever peace pact between Pakistani authorities and then-Taliban leader Maulvi Naik Muhammad (the Shakai agreement of 2004).
“It’s true that Maulvi Faqir has contacted the government for peace talks ... but I don’t think Pakistani authorities may be giving him much weight,” he said. “First, the government won’t trust him; second, he is not worth much in the TTP hierarchy.”
Faqir has very few supporters in the TTP and commanded little respect even in Bajaur and Mohmand agencies, Shah added.
Meanwhile, the TTP and its splinter groups seem set on violence, as shown by the March 11 attack on a funeral procession in the Badhaber area of Peshawar and by increasing attacks on troops in KP and FATA.
“I think war benefits them, and the TTP people won’t be thinking of any peace talks,” Shah said. “Their peace gestures are only for buying breathing space.”
Even Afghan Taliban supreme commander Mullah Omar’s request for a halt in attacks inside Pakistan has been rejected by the Hakimullah-led TTP, causing the rifts between TTP splinter groups to widen, media reports reveal. Some factions have sided with the Afghan Taliban and others with the Haqqani network.
The Haqqani network has said it will support the peace process once the Afghan Taliban and the international coalition begin negotiating.