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Malala Yousafzai’s attack isolates TTP
Differences emerged among militant factions after the TTP made it known that it plans to try again to kill her, and analysts say the dispute is indicative of disarray within the militancy.
By Javed Mahmood
ISLAMABAD – The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has come under sharp criticism from former comrades and supporters after the militants made it known that they plan another attempt on the life of Malala Yousafzai.
And analysts are calling the rift a serious setback for the group.
The TTP attempted to murder Malala, a 15-year-old schoolgirl and activist, and two classmates in Swat October 9. All three survived, and Malala is recovering in a Birmingham, England, hospital, but the militants’ pledge to target her again has sparked broad condemnation and isolation, even from many pro-TTP militant organisations and religious parties, analysts told Central Asia Online November 5.
“An unprecedented condemnation of the attack within the country and abroad has weakened ... the TTP and most of the supporters of the Taliban had not only condemned the incident but also advised the militants to abstain from doing these types of contemptible attacks,” Shahmim Shahid, a Peshawar-based ex-resident editor of the daily The Nation and analyst of Taliban affairs, told Central Asia Online.
The TTP had tried to obtain an edict from religious scholars favouring what it had done. Instead, about 50 renowned clerics met October 11 in Lahore and unanimously condemned the brutal shooting and asked the militants not to enforce their idea of Islam with force and bullets.
"We strongly condemn use of bullets in the name of Islam by the extremists," Sahibzada Fazal Karim, chief of the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC), told Central Asia Online. The SIC, a forum of about 50 clerics, has declared the attack on Malala un-Islamic and immoral. Shooting a teenage girl for advocating the promotion of literacy was a “very shameful act” that gives Pakistan and Islam a bad name, he said.
Similarly, mainstream religious parties that are reputedly pro-Taliban – including Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam (Fazl) – have also “openly condemned the attack on an innocent girl who just wanted to promote education for girls,” Shahid said.
Status of investigation
Government and security agencies say TTP Swat leader Mullah Fazlullah masterminded the attack and claim that he took refuge in Afghanistan, Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently said. Pakistan has demanded Afghanistan extradite Fazlullah.
“The attack on Malala is the most cruel and condemnable action of the extremists,” Rustam Shah Mohmand, former Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan, told Central Asia Online in support of the extradition request.
Police also have arrested Attaullah Khan, one of the suspected would-be killers.
Rift among militants
Although TTP spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan has claimed responsibility, some militant leaders have since criticised the TTP. Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud, who outranks Fazlullah within the organisation, has gone so far as to deny the TTP’s broader involvement in the assassination attempt.
Some observers, though, have called Mehsud’s statement a mere ploy meant to repair the damage to the militant group’s image.
“If ... Hakeemullah Mehsud denied the TTP’s involvement in the attack on Malala, how could the spokesman of the Taliban, Ihsanullah, issue press statements in favour of (it)?” Mohmand asked.
Other militant groups have also come out against the shooting, further demonstrating that militant factions with Pakistan and Afghanistan are not on the same page in terms of what the groups want to achieve through their terror campaign.
With such a rift among the insurgents, Shahid predicted that the Taliban will suffer fallout.
“After the Malala incident, it would be very difficult for the Taliban to recruit new people and unite different groups of militants to fulfill their agenda of enforcing the Islam of their choice,” he said.