By: Syed Adnan Ali Shah Bukhari
In early April 2014, armed clashes took place between Taliban fighters belonging to the Shehryar Mahsud, head of the Hakimullah Mahsud group, and Khan Said, head of the Maulana Waliur Rehman Mahsud group. Around 40 militants were killed from both the sides. The current infighting between the Mahsud Taliban is over the issue of succession as to who will lead the Mahsud Taliban in the aftermath of the death of Hakimullah Mahsud, former central head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, in a US drone strike in November 2013. It is important to mention that both Hakimullah Mahsud and Waliur Rehman were at loggerheads after the death of founding central head of the TTP, Baitullah Mahsud, in a drone strike in 2009, since both wanted to be the new central head of the terror outfit. Eventually Hakimullah Mahsud became the new central head, while Waliur Rehman was appointed as the head of Mahsud Taliban – something which failed to reconcile the two leaders and their respective fighters, though they avoided highlighting their differences in the public.
Hakimullah Mahsud group is now lead by his successor, Shehryar Mahsud, while Khan Said has succeeded Wali Rehman and both the militant leaders are battling in the open to take charge of the Mahsud Taliban. On April 4, 2014, Khan Said’s fighters are reported to have killed five fighters, including a prominent commander, Kashid Khan, belonging to the Hakimullah Mahsud group in Shaktoi area of South Waziristan Agency. In retaliation fighters belonging to the Hakimulllah group killed four fighters from the opposite camp. This was followed by further skirmishes, one of which took place on April 8, 2019 while fighters loyal to Khan Said attacked three strongholds of the Hakimullah Mahsud group in Makin, Bober and Shaktoi areas of South Waziristan Agency, thereby killing 10 fighters of Hakimullah group. In the said attacks, Khan Said also lost three fighters. On April 9, 2019, six fighters affiliated with Hakimullah Mahsud group were killed by Khan Said group in Gomal area of Tank and in North Waziristan Agency. Hakimullah group also claimed to have killed seven fighters of Khan Said and capturing alive 15 others in in the Badar area of South Waziristan Agency. So far 27 militants loyal to Shahryar Mahsud and 13 militants belonging to the Khan Said group have lost their lives in the infighting between the two armed groups.
Haqani Network and Hafiz Gull Bahadur group militants are mediating between Khan Sayed group and Sheryar group and trying to convince both the groups to effect a cease fire. On April 11, 2014, both groups agreed to a ceasefire and give a chance to the mediation to resolve the differences between the two groups. Although a ceasefire has been made between the two Mahsud groups but it’s not going to stay for long because a lot of blood has been spilled between the two groups and now only one of the group would stay in South and North Waziristan. It is expected that clashes would resume between the two groups again in the above mentioned Agencies of FATA.
Already large numbers of militants from Hakimullah group are shifting to Gomal area of Tank where large numbers of Mahsud tribesmen are settled down from a long time. There are also reports that Hakimullah group may try to make alliance with another anti-TTP Mahsud group by the name of Abdullah group active in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan Districts of KPK Province. Abdullah group militants were expelled by TTP in 2008 from South Waziristan Agency. If Hakimullah group succeed in making an alliance with Abdullah group in Tank and Dera Ismail Khan Districts then they would be powerful enough to face Khan Sayed group in the twin agencies of Waziristan.
Regarding the military operation against the Taliban militants the Pakistani army is ready and wants to launch a full scale military operation in the Agency but the Nawaz government is not ready to launch an operation in North Waziristan Agency at the moment and wants to give more time to the peace talks process. This is the one of the main reason of differences between the Army and government from the past couple of months.
According to local sources in the Waziristan region, the Pakistani government may launch a military operation in North Waziristan Agency very soon because the TTP militants are not ready to make major compromises in the ongoing peace talks with the government.