INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR: PAPER NO. 551
In a broadcast over his FM radio station on August 22,2009, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, the Amir of the Taliban unit in the Bajaur Agency of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and deputy Amir of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), stated as follows: " The shura has appointed Hakimullah as successor to Baitullah Mehsud. The shura earlier had nominated me as the acting chief, but now I will be again deputy chief.I shall continue to be the Amir of the TTP in Bajaur."
2.He was reported to have told the Agence France Press as follows: "A Taliban shura has unanimously appointed Hakimullah Mehsud assuccessor to Baitullah Mehsud.The shura meeting continued for two days and was attended by 22 members."
3. Media reports originating from Bajaur had also quoted Faqir Mohammad as saying: " ‘Baitullah is alive but he is seriously sick.God forbid ifBaitullah is dead, Hakimullah will be his successor." It is not clear when this statement was made. Probably before the official selection ofHakimullah as the Amir of the TTP by the Shura.
4.The claims of the US and Pakistan that Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US Drone attack on the house of the father of his second wife inSouth Waziristan on August 5,2009, had been strongly refuted by the members of the TTP. If Baitullah had really been killed by a US Drone,it is difficult to understand why this was denied by the TTP because achieving martyrdom while fighting the Americans ---- any foreigner forthat matter---is considered a divinely-bestowed honour for a Pashtun.
5.The TTP had also vehemently denied the claims made by Rehman Malik, the Pakistani Interior Minister, after the Drone attack thatfactional fighting broke out at a Shura meeting in South Waziristan to choose his successor in which Hakimullah was killed.At that time, Ihad pointed out that it was surprising that the Shura meeting should have been held so soon after the attack and that too in SouthWaziristan where the Shura members would be vulnerable to Drone attacks by the US. It is now reported by tribal sources that the Shurameeting was actually held in the Orakzai Agency, where Hakimullah normally lives, on August 20 and 21.
6. In his broadcast, Faqir Mohammad did not announce the death of Baitullah. He merely announced the selection of Hakimullah as the newAmir.It would be interesting to see whether the TTP now announces the death of Baitullah and if so, what it attributes the death to---theDrone attack or his illness. Admiting his death as a result of the Drone attack would give him a place of honour as a martyr in the hearts offellow-Pashtuns, but would at the same time indicate that he was probably betrayed by some fellow Pashtuns. Attributing his death toillness would deprive him of martyrdom while fighting the 'infidel' Americans and the 'apostate' Pakistani Army.
7. Hakimullah is known as the mobile jihadi because of his habit of constantly traveling. He is believed to be the cousin of Qari HussainMehsud, who is in charge of training suicide bombers. Both of them are natives of South Waziristan. While Qari Hussain operates from SouthWaziristan, Hakimullah operates from the Orakzai Agency. Till his appointment as the chief, he was in charge of the TTP's operations in theOrakzai, Khyber and Kurram Agencies. He was, inter alia, in charge of disrupting the NATO's logistic supplies to Afghanistan via thePakistani tribal areas. He is believed to be in his late 20s and often moves around in a Humvee vehicle captured by his men from a NATOlogistics convoy. He reportedly has a large weapons holding of NATO origin. He is healthier than Baitullah and more ruthless.
8.On April 1,2009, a Drone attacked with a missile the house of Hakimullah Mehsud in the Khadezai area of the Orakzai Agency. Twelvepersons were killed ----- six of them followers of Hakimullah, two women and four other unidentified persons. Hakimullah himself, who wasapparently one of the targets, escaped unhurt and warned of a retaliatory strike by the Taliban in Islamabad. The retaliation through asuicide bomber came within three days. Late on the evening of April 4,2009, a suicide bomber blew himself up in front of the barracks of acompany of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) from the North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), which is deployed in Islamabad on VIP securityduties. At least eight members of the FC were killed by the explosion.
9. In the last week of November,2008, Hakimullah had invited a group of about 20 Pakistani journalists to his hide-out in the Orakzai Agency.In a report in "The News" of November 30,2008, Rahimullah Yusufzai, the Pakistani journalist, stated as follows: "Hakimullah, who couldaspire to succeed Baitullah Mehsud one day, made some strong-worded statements in his maiden encounter with the journalists. Hethreatened attacks against the PPP and ANP( Awami National Party) leadership for having ordered military operations against the Taliban.He made no effort to hide his group’s plans to disrupt the supplies for Nato forces passing through Pakistan and warned of a tit-for-tatresponse for the US drone attacks in the tribal areas. He claimed the Taliban could attempt to take Peshawar and other towns and cities “ifthe rulers failed to change their pro-US policies”. The young Taliban commander remarked that he found no difference between Bush andObama. He also felt former president General Pervez Musharraf’s policies were still being followed in Pakistan. Other claims made byHakimullah were that Baitullah Mehsud was hale and hearty, that their differences with Pakistani Taliban commander for North Waziristan,Hafiz Gul Bahadur, had been resolved and that there were no Taliban in Karachi. He alleged that MQM leader Altaf Hussain was raising thebogey of Talibanisation in Karachi to hide his own reign of terror. He also denied Taliban involvement in the recent bomb explosions inLahore.Obviously, there was no way to verify his claims. About the rise in missile strikes by US drones in the two Waziristans, Hakimullahclaimed the Taliban had apprehended and beheaded about 12 men spying for the Americans and guiding them to targets."
10. In the meanwhile, the TTP has undertaken an enquiry to find out how the US intelligence knew about the visit of Baitullah to hisfather-in-law's house. Ikramullah, the father-in-law, who was reportedly not in the house at the time of the attack and some other membersof his family, who were also not in the house during the attack, have reportedly been detained for questioning.
11. According to local Police sources, the TTP leadership also suspects Qari Saifullah Akhtar, the Amir of the Pakistan branch of theHarkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI), who had reportedly ingratiated himself with Baitullah and was collaborating with him.Last week, theIslamabad Police reported that he was found to be undergoing treatment in an Islamabad hospital for an injury suspected to have beensustained in a Drone attack and has been taken into custody. This is the fifth or sixth time Qari Saifullah has been taken into custody forquestioning. Previously, he was detained for questioning in connection with a coup plot against Benazir Bhutto in 1995, the two attempts tomurder Pervez Musharraf in December,2003, the attack on Benazir Bhutto in Karachi in October,2007, and the murder of the SurgeonGeneral of the Pakistan Army early last year. Every time he managed to come out unscathed.
12.The HUJI was not banned by Musharraf as a terrorist organisation either in his notification of January 2002 or in his notification ofNovember,2003. No action has been taken against it by the present Government either. While the US has declared the Bangladesh branchof the HUJI as a Foreign Terrorist Organisation, it has not made a similar declaration against the HUJI of Pakistan. It has not declaredSaifullah as a terrorist, No action has been taken by the US to move for the declaration of the HUJI of Pakistan as a terrorist organisation bythe anti-terrorism committee of the UN Security Council. All actions taken so far either by the US or the committee of the UNSC, whichgenerally acts at the US initiative, have been against the Bangladesh branch. It is suspected that the US and Pakistani intelligenceagencies have been going out of their way to protect the HUJI of Pakistan and Saifullah.Is he a double agent working for the ISI against theTTP and for the TTP against the Pakistan Army? That is the question which is reported to be troubling the new leadership of the TTP.
13. This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of August 8,2009, titled "The Mole In Their Midst: The Top Guns of theTaliban Suspect Each Other" available at http://ramanstrategicanalysis.blogspot.com/2009_08_08_archive.html
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail: email@example.com )