Saturday Nov 02, 2013

Taliban differ over new TTP chief appointment

MIRANSHAH: A difference has surfaced in the ranks of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) over the appointment of new chief after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike.

According to reports, two separate meetings of the TTP were underway. The meeting of the Majlis-e-Shura (Central Advisory Committee) which is being held in North Waziristan has agreed on appointing Khan Said alias Sajna as the new chief. This meeting is being attended by Taliban leaders from Orakzai, Kurram Agency, Tank and Khyber Agency.

The AFP is reporting that the Majils-e-Shura are taking opinions from all shura members and senior commanders. "The decision may take more time because the shura members are constantly changing the meeting place," a Taliban commander told the foreign news agency.

Meanwhile, the second meeting being held in Nuristan has opposed the appointment of Khan Said alias Sajna. Sources add that the meeting in Nuristan is being attended by Taliban leaders from Malakand, Swat, Bajaur and Mohmand Agency.


Hakimullah’s death is the third major setback suffered by the TTP in a short span of six months – beginning with the death of TTP’s No.2 Waliur Rehman Mehsud in a drone attack in May 2013, followed by the September 2013 arrest of Latif Mehsud, who was made the deputy Ameer of the TTP only recently by Hakimullah while replacing Khan Said alias Sajna, a close adviser of Waliur Rehman.

Latif was arrested by the American troops from the Logar province of Afghanistan on October 5, 2013, where he had gone to hold talks with Afghan intelligence officials. Latif was elevated as the deputy Ameer of TTP after Hakimullah had developed serious differences with his No2 — the 36-year-old Khan Said alias Sajna.

However, after Latif’s arrest, Hakimullah was quick to elevate commander Abdullah Bahar as his No2 who too is reported to have been killed in the US drone strike along with his boss.

With commander Latif having already been arrested and commander Abdullah killed, commander Khan Said alias Sajna has bright chances of succeeding Hakimullah as the TTP Ameer keeping in view his guerilla skills and the goodwill he still enjoys among the various Taliban factions. But he had to face tough resistance from Hakimullah’s loyalists.

Even though Hakimullah’s death is being described as a major blow to the TTP-government peace efforts, there are those in the establishment circles who believe that the peace efforts would speed up if commander Khan Said becomes the new Ameer of the TTP. In the wake of Waliur Rehman’s death in a US drone attack in Waziristan on May 29, 2013, Sajna was not only appointed Hakimullah’s No2, but he was also made the commander of South Waziristan chapter of the TTP, a position which was being held by Waliur Rehman till his death.

A resident of the Shobikhel area of South Waziristan, Khan Said alias Sajna was a close aide and a longtime personal assistant of Waliur Rehman. Like many other Taliban commanders, Sajna too has been involved in fighting against the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan.

But Hakimullah had replaced Said with Latif in August following rising differences with him over numerous issues, the most important being the matter of peace talks with the government and mishandling of the TTP coffers. While Khan Said alias Sajna had a leaning for peace talks with the government just like Waliur Rehman, Hakimullah was under the influence of those who believe in bloodshed instead of peace.

Subsequently, Latif was not only made the deputy Ameer of TTP but was also appointed the commander of the terror outfit in Miramshah, the capital of North Waziristan which also headquarters the Hakimullah-led Taliban. However, while refusing to relinquish his position as the deputy Ameer of the terror outfit, Sajna had stepped up his efforts to put together a parallel set-up of his own loyalists within the TTP in South Waziristan.

While Sajna maintained that the key slot of the TTP’s deputy Ameer should not have been given to a driver and that too without consultation, Hakimullah had justified his decision, saying he too had been the driver of TTP’s founding Ameer Baitullah Mehsud before being elevated as the TTP Ameer.

On the other hand, despite being removed by Hakimullah, Khan Said Sajna remained a part of the TTP. He not only strengthened his clout in the militant circles of South Waziristan but has also managed to garner the support of all the 12 Mehsud tribal chiefs of North Waziristan. However, the selection of the new TTP Ameer would be an uphill task for the Taliban especially at a time when the TTP faces a leadership crisis because of the frequent deaths of its top commanders.