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A Clear Case of Sabotage

 

TSI | Issue Dated: November 30, -0001, New Delhi
Tags : Hakimullah Mehsud | Nato | Pakistan | US | Waziristan | Drone | Baitullah Mehsud |
 

Hopes for dialogue and a route to peace were dealt a bitter blow when Hakimullah Mehsud, Emir of Pakistan Tehrik -e-Taliban (TTP) was killed in a US drone strike along with several others. I received a message from a contact in Waziristan at 3.35 GMT Thursday which simply read “Hakimullah is killed.”


He and his companions who included relatives and bodyguards were targeted on home soil with missiles striking his vehicle at a compound in the village of Danda Darpakhel, five kilometres north of Miranshah, North Waziristan.
Imran Khan, leader of opposition party Tehrik -e- Insaf was quick to respond to the news stating the following, “one thing has been proved today, Whenever Pakistan tries peace talks, there is a Drone strike. We will try to get the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa assembly to pass a bill to block NATO supplies and I will take the resolution to National Assembly myself.”


Hakimullah who had a reputation for being bloody and ruthless was in his thirties and took over as leader of TTP after Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a US Drone strike in August 2009. Waliur Rehman, Hakimullah’s second-in-command also fell afoul of President Obama’s targeted killing programme in May 2013.


A $5m US bounty was placed on Hakimullah’s head following his appearance in a video alongside a Jordanian who was alleged to have blown himself up killing seven CIA agents in Afghanistan to avenge Baitullah Mehsud’s death. Hakimullah was also known as the mastermind behind attacks on NATO convoys, blowing up tankers along the supply route. The militant had been targeted by drones on several occasions and would sometimes choose to lay low for months. I recall a journalist colleague interviewing him at a time when most believed he was dead; he was however busy recruiting and training up future commanders while others speculated his fate.


Taliban have now officially announced his death and issued a martyr photograph. A statement reads as follows …


“We congratulate Muslims on his martyrdom and we are proud of him. While his death is a tragedy, I would like to tell the enemy that death can never deter us from our mission. Mujahideen must never despair since the cause is the establishment of a Khilafah upon the way of the Prophet. TTP shura has had a session today and it will continue tomorrow. Never fall for the lies of the secular western media. Media aims to spread lies to create divisions between the Mujahideen. They will not succeed. TTP shall inform you as soon as a new leader is appointed”


In Washington, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said US officials were not in a position to confirm reports of Mehsud’s death. Obama has been strongly criticized for his Drone programme which has killed many civilians and for continually failing to name those annihilated. Given that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had informed both Obama and John Kerry of the All Parties Conference unanimous vote for dialogue, the latest drone strikes appear to be a deliberate attempt to sabotage talks, a process they had claimed to support.


Yesterday’s events have made a mockery of the conspiracy theorists that claimed TTP was funded by the CIA. Taliban had responded to these allegations as recently as October 8. “America does not fund TTP. America does however carry out a vicious Drone campaign against us, using intelligence provided by the ISI. The Drones have resulted in the martyrdom of hundreds of our members and leaders such as Nek Muhammad, Baitullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud.”

 


Those who naively believe that drone strikes will put an end to TTP however should reflect on the words of its former spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan to journalist Amir Mir after a previous strike aimed at Hakimullah on January 12, 2012. “Jihad is not linked with Hakimullah alone and wouldn't stop even if he is killed. We will continue jihad whether Hakimullah Mehsud is alive or dead. There are so many lions in this jungle and one lion would replace another to continue this noble mission”


Ironically Taliban had recently discussed dialogue with its numerous groups and Pakistan’s interior minister Chowdhary Nisar indicated that a delegation was to have been sent on Saturday for talks with Taliban. However there is a question mark over whether TTP were officially consulted on this move.


Referring to a leaflet distributed in north Waziristan following Hakimullah’s death and a holding off on talks, a contact alleged, “it seems the peace deal between Mujahideen and American-backed army is going to break down and we will have another war….to prevent any retaliation, ISI has been making mass-arrests from southern Punjab , Lahore and Islamabad/Rawalpindi.”


Many will not mourn the passing of Hakimullah and refer to the thousands of people that have been killed in bombings and shootings during the last decade blaming the Taliban. However some feel that many of those killed would not have died had it not been for Pakistan government and military carrying out the bidding of the US in the War on Terror. Locals also point to the army as being responsible for some of the death and destruction in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Civilians are reluctant to raise concerns in public about the military for fear of reprisals and the army itself has suffered many losses.


One tribute to the Taliban leader reads: “Emir Hakimullah was an agent of Allah and he paid with his blood for it. Pakistan rulers are agents of America and they spill Muslim blood and get paid dollars for it. Emir Hakimullah was a slave of Allah. Pakistan rulers are slaves of America.”


There have been the usual inaccuracies in media reports with one news programme discussing Taliban attacks against footage of a bombing recently denied by TTP. There have been concerns regarding attempts to derail dialogue through violent action where the blame would automatically be directed at TTP whether or not they were involved.


The drone attack on Hakimullah is viewed by some as short sighted and will only act as a recruiting tool for the Taliban radicalizing more young men and women whom I am told “do more than traditional cookery.”


Most would also prefer to ignore the fact that the Pakistan military is divided on the drone issue. The week before my journalist colleague Saleem Shahzad was kidnapped, tortured and killed he had been speaking on this issue with those within the armed services. He was never able to write the second part of an article which was to have discussed the alleged active recruitment of insurgent sympathizers into the military.


As someone that had recently interviewed a member of the Taliban, there had been a sense of hope and a feeling they were prepared to engage on a path for dialogue. For those still serious about peace, there is a now an increasingly long and difficult road ahead!

(Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer and human rights activist from Britain whose documentary “Incident in New Baghdad” received an Oscar nod.


An expert on the Drone campaign and its impact in the tribal areas, she divides her time between Britain and Pakistan)

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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017