After a long time, the United States and its allies have been able to eliminate one of their most wanted Pakistani Taliban commanders, Maulvi Nazeer, through a drone attack in the South Waziristan putting Islamabad relations with the so-called pro-government Taliban on a collision course.
Maulvi Nazeer was killed along with his six other commanders when their vehicle was attacked by missiles, fired from a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-operated drone, in Sra Kanda (Red Ditch) area between Birmal and Wana on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border in South Waziristan. The killing of Maulvi Nazeer is an extremely significant incident as he was the head of Muqami Taliban in South Waziristan, one of the most volatile parts of the FATA. His group along with that of Hafiz Gul Bahadur- led group of Taliban in North Waziristan have been referred to as pro-government Taliban as they, unlike the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) led by Hakimullah Mehsud, have been sticking to the peace deals inked with the Pakistani authorities in 2007 and 2006 respectively. The Nazeer and Bahadur led groups have desisted from attacks on Pakistani security forces while they do not have any record of launching terrorist attacks inside Pakistan.
The killing of Nazeer is an extremely important incident from both Pakistan and the US point of view and this can be gauged from the reaction of both the countries. Pakistani authorities including the foreign office have refused to comment on the demise of Maulvi Nazeer. The refusal to comment or say anything on record itself shows the pro-government credentials of the militant commander. Obviously the death of Nazeer is a big blow to the uneasy peace between the non-TTP militants and the government forces. Thus there may be some attacks on the security forces in South Waziristan as a reaction. But keeping in view the complexion and record of Nazeer-led militants belonging to nine sub-tribes of Ahmedzai Wazir tribe inhabiting SWA, one is optimistic that there would not be big attacks from the militants while they would also not resort to terrorism in reaction. Having said this it is important to acknowledge that the killing of Nazeer has put the relations of pro-government militants and the authorities on a collision course. Now it depends upon the authorities how they would handle the situation.
Pakistani authorities need to convince the successor of Nazeer on remaining at peace with the government and tell them that they have nothing to do with the US drone attacks as there is a strong perception among the FATA based militants, whether pro or anti government, that the US has been launching attacks with the full approval of Pakistan government. This perception and impression needs to be dispelled particularly in the situation that has emerged in South Waziristan after the killing of Maulvi Nazeer otherwise the situation could become volatile and this is not in the interest of Pakistan.
It is important to note that the killing of Nazeer happened at a time when the relationship between the two biggest tribes of SWA—Wazir and Mehsud—are strained. The tension in the relations between the two tribes increased after a suicide attack on Maulvi Nazeer in last November in South Waziristan in which the militant commander survived. Nazeer-group blamed the attack on Hakimullah’s led TTP as the Ahmedzai Wazir tribes before that asked the TTP militants to leave their part of SWA. The decision to expel TTP militants from Wazir area was taken after pressure from the government under the territorial responsibility clauses of the FCR holding the local tribes responsible for any attacks on government officials or machinery as several attacks were made on government forces in the Wazir tribe inhabited area. Nazeer led militants disowned the attacks and instead blamed the TTP militant residing in the area of the attacks and gave ultimatum to all Mehsud living in the Wazir area to leave. The TTP, which draw most of its strength in SWA from Mehsud tribe, regretted the ultimatum of the expulsion and soon there was a suicide attack on Maulvi Nazeer. The animosity between Ahmedzai Wazir based militants and the TTP goes back to 2007 when the latter supported the ferocious Uzbek militants in their fighting with the former led by Nazeer. Nazeer-led militants were able to uproot Uzbek and other foreign militants from their part of SWA due to which they relocated to other areas of FATA.
Keeping in view the extremely fragile tribal loyalties and dynamics now when Nazeer has been killed there is a danger that the TTP may offer Ahmedzai Wazir based militants to join hands and launch attacks on the government. If this happens this would be extremely grave situation. Again it depends on the authorities how they handle the situation.
On the other hand the US has welcomed the killing of Nazeer by reacting that this would go a long way in eliminating militant and terrorist attacks on the international coalition forces in Afghanistan. The US has had believed Nazeer along with Hafiz Gul Bahadur to be instrumental in attacks from Pakistani soil on its forces in Afghanistan. In its reaction Washington said that Nazeer’s killing would also reduce Al Qaeda attacks as well as operational bases which Nazeer led militants have had provided to the global network. This is indeed a very serious charge because if Nazeer had been providing bases to Al Qaeda and at the same time he was pro-government also then it indirectly means that Pakistan, if not supported, turned a blind eye to Al Qaeda’s activity on its soil. Moreover, Washington has taken the position that Nazeer’s killing is not only good for it but also for Pakistan. The message between the lines is that the Pakistani position of having pro-government Taliban whether out of fear or as a strategy has not worked for Islamabad in either way. Therefore, the commander which it cannot eliminate itself has been eliminated by the US.
(The writer is a political analyst and researcher: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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