ISLAMABAD, April 17: The Pakistani establishment has made it clear to the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network that the time has come for them to choose between the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and the state of Pakistan, if they want to stay friends with Islamabad.
The unprecedented warning from the Pakistani establishment has come at a crucial time when the Pakistani Taliban are holding peace talks with the government in Islamabad, amidst demands to release over 800 Taliban prisoners and to set up a free peace zone in Waziristan.
According to well-informed sources, the warning from the establishment was prompted by the growing cooperation among the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network and the Pakistani Taliban, which has reinforced the martial power of TTP in its current conflict with the security forces of Pakistan.
The TTP spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, already admitted on October 6, 2013 in an interview that the Afghan Taliban were financially supporting the Pakistani Taliban besides providing them sanctuary in Afghanistan.
The fugitive TTP Ameer, Mullah Fazlullah, who had claimed responsibility last year for killing GOC Swat Major General Sanaullah Niazi is also being sheltered by the Afghan Taliban in the Kunar Province.
However, what seemed to have angered the Pakistani establishment the most were the allegations coming from the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban, blaming the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for the November 11, 2013 mystery murder [in Islamabad] of Dr Nasiruddin Haqqani, the top fundraiser and organiser of Haqqani Network as well as its liaison man with the Pakistani security establishment.
Dr Nasiruddin, the real brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, was killed by unknown gunmen in the federal capital 10 days after the November 1, 2013 killing of the TTPAmeer in a US drone attack in North Waziristan. Both were laid to rest in the Dandey Darapa Khel area of North Waziristan which also headquarters the Haqqani Network as well as the TTP.
The decades-old cozy ties between the Pakistani establishment and the Haqqanis were shattered with the mystery murder of Dr Nasiruddin when a spokesman of Haqqani network (Najeebullah) immediately blamed the Pakistani intelligence agencies.
He said: “Dr Nasiruddin had been mediating between a powerful intelligence agency and the Pakistani Taliban for peace talks. But he had refused to mediate further following Hakimullah’s death and the subsequent announcement of TTP not to hold peace talks with the government.
Nasiruddin’s reluctance to mediate anymore after Hakimullah’s killing must have annoyed the agency which decided to eliminate him physically,” the Haqqanis’ spokesman was quoted by the media as saying.
On his part, the TTP spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, also blamed a Pakistani intelligence agency for the murder, vowing to take revenge. “Nasiruddin Haqqani has been martyred by none other than the ISI.
He was killed because he had bravely backed our Ameer Hakimullah Mehsud,” Shahidullah told AFP when asked about possible killers.
However, on their part, the ISI circles had refuted the allegations of involvement in the murder, saying Dr Nasiruddin Haqqani was either killed by the TTP or by the Afghan National Directorate of Security.
The allegations leveled by the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network were followed by Pakistani intelligence reports that both the groups were supporting and financing the TTP in its terror spree against the khakis and the civilians alike.
Indeed, the Pakistani and the Afghan Taliban are closely allied and both aim to impose a strict version of Islamic laws or Shariah on their societies. However, their leadership and targets differ with each other.
While the Pakistani Taliban mostly focus their terrorist attacks in Pakistan against the security forces which they think are an American ally, the Afghan Taliban target the Afghan and the Allied forces.
Defence Minister Khawaja Asif recently told Reuters in an interview that the Pakistan government was worried about the possibility of increasing convergence between the Pakistani and the Afghan Taliban. “Then the Pakistani Taliban will have a powerhouse behind them,” Khawaja Asif had said.
Analysts believe that these concerns might have prompted the Pakistani security establishment to warn the Haqqanis and the Afghan Taliban against backing the TTP.
However, the close nature of ties between the Afghan and the Pakistani Taliban can be gauged from the fact that the central Shura of TTP has already referred their internal differences to the Afghan Taliban while asking Mullah Omar to intervene and send a delegation to resolve the tiff between two major factions of Mehsud militants from South Waziristan.
A senior TTP commander has been quoted in the media as saying that the Shura thought that the intra-TTP tussle was too serious and critical for them and, therefore, they decided to approach the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, a term usually referred to the Afghan Taliban.
There are already reports that the Ameer of the Afghan Taliban is persuading the Pakistani Taliban to end their infighting in South Waziristan as he wants to secure their support against the foreign troops in Afghanistan to launch the annual spring offensive.
Analysts believe the Pakistani security establishment’s warning was meant to dissuade the Haqqanis and the Afghan Taliban from siding with the Pakistani Taliban in their conflict with the state of Pakistan at a time when the Allied forces are set to withdraw from Afghanistan and both the Afghan militia groups would require the crucial support of Islamabad to stage a comeback in Kabul.
In fact, the ultimate agenda of the Pakistani Taliban is the establishment of their own state — the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan [on the pattern of Mullah Omar’s Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan] in Fata where they can impose the Islamic Shariah. On the other hand, the ultimate agenda of the Afghan Taliban is the revival of the lost Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
Therefore, following the Pakistani establishment’s warning, Mullah Omar will have to decide whether to befriend the Pakistani Taliban or the state of Pakistan.
Commander Sirajuddin Haqqani of the Haqqani Network is bound to follow suit being a disciple of Mullah Omar just like the Pakistani and the Afghan Taliban. Well informed sources in the establishment say logically speaking Mullah Omar would like to remain a friend of Pakistan instead of inviting its wrath by befriending the TTP.
However, there are those in the Taliban circles who believe that if the Afghan Taliban succeed in regaining power in Kabul after the withdrawal of the Allied troops, there would be greater chances of their joining hands with the Pakistani Taliban whose aims and objectives and those of the Ameerul Momineen are the same.
However, the establishment circles say, in such an eventuality, the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani Network must know that “strategic depth” would no longer be a consideration of the establishment if the Pakistan government finally orders a military action in North Waziristan after the failure of the talks with the TTP.