PESHAWAR: A major faction of Taliban has broken away from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) over what it said ideological differences with Mullah Fazlullah who took over the command of the organisation last year replacing Hakeemullah Mehsud.
The decision by Mehsud group was made public at a press conference held by its spokesman Azam Tariq at an undisclosed location in Waziristan on Tuesday.
“We announce our defection from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. We have chosen Khalid Mehsud as the new leader for South Waziristan,” the spokesman for the breakaway group said.
‘Khalid Mehsud’ was earlier known by the name ‘Khan Said Sajna’ and was a contender for the TTP’s leadership after its former chief Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike last November.
A Mehsud journalist from South Waziristan who attended the press conference told Daily Times that the Mehsud group was ‘unhappy’ at what the spokesman termed deviation by Mullah Fazlullah from the real struggle of the TTP – the establishment of an Islamic state.
“The present (Fazlullah-led) Taliban regime is carrying out bomb attacks on public places with bogus names and also money is being extorted from madrassas and other institutions which is not acceptable,” the spokesman said.
“The TTP leadership has fallen into the hands of a bunch of conspirators, the umbrella organisation is involved in criminal activities like robbery and extortion,” he said.
Since Fazlullah’s elevation to the TTP chief after Hakeemullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike last year ‘ideological differences’ were seen cropping up between the Panjpiri and the Deobandi groups, a source close to the TTP told Daily Times.
“It was unacceptable for the Mehsud Taliban to be led by a Panjpiri leader,” the source said.
Since March, Khalid Mehsud’s followers have been involved in bloody clashes with followers of the late Hakimullah Mehsud, who are now led by commander Shehryar Mehsud.
“We tried our best to put the group in the right direction, even the Afghan Taliban tried to mediate between us but the TTP did not pay any attention to the Afghan Taliban,” Azam Tariq said.
“Despite all efforts, conniving elements in the organisation emerged successful.”
Other Taliban factions were also becoming ‘distrustful’ of the main organisation, he added.
Azam Tariq called the current TTP as “criminal organization.”
The TTP source said the Mehsud group was also not happy at giving the organisation’s control into hands of non-Mehsuds, whom Azam Tariq labeled as ‘shadowy forces’. He did not elaborate.
The Mehsud group is likely to emerge stronger after the division as the Punjabi Taliban, a term used for militants from southern Punjab, and al-Qaeda are also supporting it.
A two-page statement from Khalid Mehsud gave details why his group took this drastic decision saying that he and his comrades waited long to see the TTP leadership would respond to ground situation with ‘positive approach’.
“We still believe in jihad to achieve our goal – establishing Khilafat,” Khalid Mehsud said. “We invite the Muslim world to join the jihad for the glory of Islam,” he said. Azam Tariq avoided answering any questions about the ongoing peace talks between the TTP and the federal government.
It merits a mention here that Sajna group represents commander Waliur Rehman, who was killed in a drone strike, and Shehryar Mehsud group comes from Hakeemullah Mehsud.
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