By: Dr Syed Adnan Ali Shah Bukhari
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s peace offer to the Pakistani Taliban has caused a rift within the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Earlier, the central head of the TTP, Hakimullah Mahsud, was greatly incensed with Maulana Asmatullah Moavia, Emir of the TTP-Punjab chapter (also known as the Punjabi Taliban) when the later welcomed the peace overture by Mr. Sharif and announced his expulsion from the TTP. There were local reports that Hakimullah even attempted to arrest him, but Moavia had gone underground to evade getting arrested or killed.
The second rift within the TTP was reported from its Darra Adamkhel chapter which is headed by Commander Arif Afridi. Subsequently, the TTP-Darra Adamkhel is reported to have split into two groups: one in favor of peace talks with the government, while the other opposed to any kind of engagement with the government. According to information, Noor Habib, an important commander of TTP Darra Adamkhel has disassociated himself from Commander Arif Afridi, head of TTP Dara Adamkhel over the issue of peace talks with the Pakistani government. Noor Habib held several meetings with Commander Afridi to convince him to accept the talk offer by the government but he failed to convince the latter. Subsequently, on August 26, 2013, Habib separated along with a group of his loyalists and allied himself with another Taliban group active in the Matani area of Peshawar District.
Commander Noor Habib has around 80 to 100 men in his group. He is now allied with the Alizai group active in Matani area from the past two years. The Alizai group is also in favour of peace talks with the Pakistani government and this is the reason that Noor Habib has allied himself with this group.
The separation of Noor Habib has weakened TTP Darra Adamkhel chapter. The TTP is already fighting against pro-government Momin Afridi group for the control of Darra Adamkhel from the past several months.
There are strong indications that a majority of the TTP militants are in favour of peace talks with the Pakistani government because the TTP militants are also fed up of the prolonged fighting with the army in the seven agencies of FATA. The TTP militants are also facing shortage of cash, weaponry, medicines and logistics which is effecting the group’s operations in FATA and in the settled districts of Pakistan.
The TTP militants also understand that local people in different agencies of FATA are also blaming them for their troubles and they have lost the support of the local people which is very necessary for them if they want to remain in the area. The TTP fighters know that the local population of FATA now prefers the army over them and due to this public support, the Pakistan army was able to expel and defeat TTP militants in Bajaur, Mohmand, Kurrum and Orakzai Agencies in FATA, as well as in Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province (KP). The TTP militants wants to strengthen their position in FATA and for this they want the support of the local people and by favoring peace talks with the army and government they want to win the hearts and minds of the local population.