EXCLUSIVE Pakistani Taliban chief warns
Islamabad By Ihsanullah Tipu
WAZIRISTAN - Mualana Wali-u-Rehman, known in
militant circles as "Molvi Sahib", carries a
Turkish-made Zigana-K pistol and a Russian AKS-74U
assault rifle. Rehman, a former activist from
Pakistan's largest religious-political party,
Jamiat-ul-Ulema Islam, was one of the founding
members of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan
(Pakistani Taliban, or TTP) in South Waziristan,
when it emerged in late 2007.
officially a deputy in the TTP, is at present
serving as de-facto chief, as his leader,
Hakimullah Mehsud, is in deep hiding to avoid US
drone strikes. According to Taliban sources, a Taliban shura
(consultative council) recently advised Mehsud to
keep a low profile and avoid militant meetings.
Rehman has been designated a "global
terrorist" by the US State Department, with a US$5
million bounty on his head. Pakistani authorities
have also offered a 50 million rupee (US$530,000)
reward for information that leads to his capture
He is believed to have
orchestrated a 2009 suicide attack on the US
Central Intelligence Agency-run Camp Chapman in
Afghanistan's Khost province. Carried out by a
Jordanian triple agent, Humam Khalil Al-Balawi,
the suicide bombing killed seven CIA officials,
including camp chief Jennifer Lynne Matthews.
After TTP founder Baitullah Mehsud was
killed by a US drone strike in August, 2009,
Rehman - Baitullah's former driver and spokesman -
was a contender for the top TTP post. According to
local sources, the Afghan Taliban are today closer
to Rehman than Hakimullah. "They consider him more
reliable and influential than Hakimullah in many
aspects - he is easy to convince," a leading
Taliban commander told this correspondent.
Many security experts believe that there
has been a substantial decline in civilian
casualties from Taliban-perpetrated violence since
Rehman took control of TTP affairs.
ideologue-cum-strategist, Rehman is known among as
a staid, cerebral and taciturn character -
attributes that helped him quickly rise up the
militant ladder. In this exclusive interview with
Asia Times Online, Rehman lays out his
organization's strategy, ideological orientation
and geopolitical ambitions.
was conducted at a secret location in North
Waziristan Agency, the second-largest of
Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas
(FATA) along the Afghan border.
Operations in North
Waziristan "As far as operations in North
Waziristan are concerned, the government will face
only failure as they have been facing for the last
10 years in different parts of the tribal regions,
" Rehman told ATol.
claims of success, they have faced failure in all
areas during their operations. The Taliban and
mujahideen are even stronger despite the
operations against them."
contradict Rehman's claims. In recent months,
successive military operations have ruthlessly
rooted Taliban out from traditional strongholds in
various tribal regions.
The US has long
pressurized the government to also go after the
Haqqani network in the tribal regions, claiming
that its failure to do so underlines the
tight-knit relationship between the militant group
- known for their attacks on US forces in
Afghanistan - and Pakistan's intelligence
agencies. However, critics in Pakistan say this
would be "strategic suicide" for Islamabad.
"If Pakistan launches operations in North
Waziristan against the Haqqani network, we will
react in the same manner as we have in other
regions against the wrong policies of the Pakistan
government," Rehman reiterated in the interview.
"The US has long been trying to dismantle
the Haqqani network in Afghanistan but they only
face failure. Pakistan will also face trouble if
it launches operations against the Haqqani
Network. Such operations will not halt the attacks
of the Haqqani network against the US forces in
Afghanistan," Rehman said during the interview.
Pakistani authorities are concerned that
launching operations against the Haqqani network
would impact on strategic gains made against the
TTP-led insurgency across the tribal belt in
recent years of fighting.
On July 12, the
TTP launched deadly attacks against Pakistani
security forces in Lahore, killing nine policemen.
Security agencies believe that the training and
logistics for these attacks came from North
Pakistan's war on
terror Sentiment is growing in Pakistan
that the government has been abandoned by its
coalition partners in the war against terror in
the region. A movement led by
cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan is
spearheading this argument.
"It has never
been Pakistan's war - we have been serving someone
else interests at the cost of our own. This is not
our war, this is not Pakistan's war," Khan said
while addressing a huge public rally in Peshawar
These sentiments were evident
in Rehman's interview with ATol.
knows that this is a war of others that has been
imposed upon the Pakistani people by corrupt
rulers. The people in this region have strong
sentiments for jihad while the non-believers
consider it a threat for them. That is why this
region is always affected by war.
is not based on a nationalist or separatist
agenda. This is a joint Jewish-Crusader war which
has spread throughout the whole world, including
China, Yemen and Gulf countries," said Rehman
said, reflecting al-Qaeda ideology.
operations in the West Due to its close
links with al-Qaeda, TTP has developed an
international agenda. The group has attempted
various times to carry out terrorist attacks in
Western countries. While the TTP-trained Pakistani
American, Faisal Shahzad was foiled when he
attempted to blow up an explosive laden vehicle in
Times Square in 2010, Rehman says the group plans
to revitalize its foreign network.
restoration of network in foreign or Western
countries will not a matter of days, weeks or even
months. This will require continuous struggle and
our members have been busy on this from day one.
This strategy will bear results with the passage
of time. We have to arrange many things like
resources and formulation of strategy and our role
will be better in this regard."
to media Media persons and outlets have
recently been targeted across Pakistan with the
attacks claimed by the TTP. The latest attack was
carried out against one of Pakistan's leading news
channels, "AAJ TV", when unknown assailants opened
fire on the gate of its main office in Karachi.
Pakistan was declared the world's
second-most dangerous country for journalists,
after Mexico, by the United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in
its recent report titled "Safety and the danger of
During the interview, Rehman
blatantly threatened media persons and outlets,
calling for them to restrain themselves from
demonizing the Taliban and their cause.
"Non-believers are relying on the media
more than actual war to achieve their goals. As
they have complete control over media, they try to
impose their ideology upon Muslims through various
"We are not against the free
media but it should present neutral reports while
giving coverage to both sides and presenting
facts. The media persons should not become tools
of media war against Mujahideen. Such persons were
terminated in the past and they will face the same
in the future as well," he said.
'final conflict' In keeping with fears that
the training and radicalization agenda of the TTP
and al-Qaeda has increasingly converged in the
tribal regions, Rehman's outlook often reflected
that of the international terror organization.
takes hold of tribal regions Jul 10, 2012 )
"This is a final conflict taking place
between Islam and Infidel forces, and our struggle
will continue till the conclusion, whether it is
in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India or Western
countries. This is an ideological war, and our
mission and struggle will continue regardless of
the restrictions of borders," said Rehman.
"The Arab Spring is a good omen. Finally a
struggle based on Islamic fervor and restoration
of peoples' rights has been launched against
dictators who ruled their respective countries for
decades. No one knows what will be the end result,
but still it is a better effort and heading
towards right direction. The sacrifices of the
people, who shed their blood in this struggle,
will pave the way for a revolution in future as
well. We hope for a better end result."
Ihsanullah Tipu Mehsud is an
Islamabad-based journalist. He can be reached at
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