By Zia Ur Rehman
April 5, 2015
While the law enforcement agencies have been busy taking down three factions of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Karachi, a new group called the “Afridi militants” has emerged in many Pashtun-majority areas of the city, The News has learnt.
Pashtun elders and traders in the city say that the Afridi militants are active in Sohrab Goth, Ali Town, Keamari and Banaras.
They have been sending extortion threats to traders who have arrived in the city from Khyber Agency, Frontier Region Peshawar, Charsadda and Kohat. “Three days ago, I received a call from a local number and was told to pay extortion money,” a trader in Ali Town told The News requesting anonymity. “The caller was talking in the Afridi accent of Pashto.”
The trader has not informed police so far as he thinks the militants might harm his family living in Matani, a suburban area of Peshawar.
Although it is not clear as to which Taliban faction these militants belong to, Pashtun elders suspect that they are either members of the Lashkar-e-Islam (LeI), a Khyber Agency-based militant group headed by Mangal Bagh, or affiliated with the TTP Darra Adamkhel chapter, founded by Tariq Afridi alias Geedar.
Truckers involved in transporting fuel to Nato forces at their bases in Afghanistan from Karachi are mostly members of the Afridi and Shinwari clans of Khyber Agency.
“We used to regularly pay ‘protection money’ to Bagh’s militants in Khyber Agency for protecting our trucks and families,” said an oil-tanker truck owner in Karachi.
Police say that they are not aware of the presence of the Afridi militants in the city.
“The Taliban could be extorting Pashtun traders with a new name to dodge the law enforcement agencies,” said an officer at the Sohrab Goth police station. He also suspected the involvement of some other criminals.
Three factions of the TTP – Swat, Mohmand and Mehsud – have been active in Karachi since mid-2011 and their networks have been shattered by Rangers and the other law enforcement agencies in an ongoing crackdown.
Many of their key leaders have been killed.
Security forces are engaged in an operation codenamed “Khyber One” against the LeI since October last year in different parts of Khyber Agency.
Besides, the TTP Darra Adamkhel chapter has been weakened after the killing of its chief, Tariq Afridi.
Last month, the LeI had decided to merge with the TTP for its survival.
The TTP factions have been working to form a collective front for their survival in Karachi.
This decision is part of the recently announced reunification of Taliban groups at the central level. Ehsanullah Ehsan, the spokesperson for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan Jamaatul Ahrar (TTP-JA), in an email sent to the media recently, claimed that his faction, the TTP loyal to Maulana Fazlullah and the Mangal Bagh-led Lashkar-e-Islam (LI) had reunited following a joint consultative meeting between their leaders.
Sources and security experts familiar with the network of the Taliban in Karachi believe that after the meeting of their central leaders somewhere in the Pak-Afghan bordering area, three factions of the TTP in the city were forging an alliance for their survival.
They agree that the recent crackdown has badly disrupted the Taliban’s network in the city.
Asmat Khan Wazir, an Islamabad-based independent security analyst from North Waziristan, says that the military operation, Zarb-e-Azab, under way in North Waziristan since June last year, had shattered the Taliban’s control-and-command system, affecting the activities of their Karachi factions.