by Zia Ur Rehman
July 14, 2015
Until June last year, any calls from telephone numbers starting with the code 0928 would worry Karachi-based Pashtun traders and affluent people, mainly belonging to the Mehsud tribe. Taliban, by landline phone from their office in the Miramshah bazaar, used to call Pashtun traders and affluent people mainly belonging to the Mehsud tribe and threaten to target their families if they failed to pay extortion money. In some cases, they even summoned them to appear in Taliban’s courts in Miramshah to resolve disputes – of every sort whether monetary or family.
Wali Jan*, Mehsud by tribe who migrated to Karachi from his native town of South Waziristan in the early 1970s, is one of them, who paid an amount of Rs2 million twice and visited Miramshah to appear in a Taliban court in December 2013. Jan has been running the business of heavy machinery for two decades. He still shudders when he recalls the days when the Taliban militants were active in his and other Pashtun neighborhoods of Karachi.
In a conversation with The News, Jan says he had a monetary dispute with some fellow tribesmen who asked TTP Sohrab Goth’s emir Zikria Mehsud to resolve it. “The TTP, after strengthening itself in the city, had banned resolution of disputes in regular courts and private jirgas and everyone from his tribe was compelled to consult the TTP’s local leaders in this regard,” he says.
After failing to resolve the dispute, Zikria forwarded the case to his superior, Mufti Noor Wali, Karachi head of a TTP faction, in Miramshah. “In the main Miramshah bazaar, there were separate offices for different parts of the Mehsud area of South Waziristan, such as Ladha, Makeen and Speenkai Raghazai.”
Although almost the entire Mehsud tribe population had been displaced from their hometown in October 2009 because of a military operation against the Taliban militants, the TTP Mehsud chapter’s separate offices in Miramshah used to settle disputes of the residents of their area, whether they had been living in Tank, DI Khan, Karachi or any other parts of the country. The TTP Mehsud chapter was organisationally divided in two factions – loyal to Hakimullah Mehsud and Waliur Rehman Mehsud and both have their own offices and leaders.
“We, a total of six people from both sides, attended the court at Wali’s office and put our dispute before him. After hearing the case from both parties, he asked us to come after three days,” Jan continues his story.
They stayed for three days in a local hotel in the Miramshah bazaar. After a telephonic consultation with his commanders and Mehsud tribal elders based in Karachi through landline telephone, Wali resolved the issue fairly, he maintains.
Wali was affiliated with Khan Said alias Sajna, who was appointed head of the TTP after the killing of Waliur Rehman in a drone attack in May 2013.
“There were regular courts in Miramshah where Wali and other TTP commanders used to listen to and resolve dozens of cases on a daily basis,” he says
Miramshah link cut
Karachi’s Pashtun residents breathed a sigh of relief when the military started Operation Zarb-e-Azb in North Waziristan in June 2014 against the local and foreign Taliban militants.
During the first year, success of Zarb-e-Azb removed the sense of insecurity from among the residents of the country. On June 5 this year, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), marking the operation’s first anniversary, said the military had achieved a significant success in tribal areas, specially North Waziristan Agency and Khyber Agency, where militants’ strongholds, infrastructure and sanctuaries have largely been cleared.
Zarb-e-Azb has shattered the Taliban’s control-and-command system, affecting the activities of their Karachi factions, analysts and Pashtun elders believe.
“Zarb-e-Azb disrupted the Taliban militants’ free Karachi-Miramshah movement by destroying their offices and compelling them to flee the area,” Jan says, adding that it has also weakened them in Karachi.
However, the analysts claim that actual action against the TTP in Karachi started after the attack on Army Public School in Peshawar in December last year. Most of the key Taliban commanders and supporters in the city have been killed by the law enforcement agencies, especially Rangers after the Peshawar attack.
“We haven’t seen the Taliban killing anyone or asking traders for extortion in the last six months. The TTP militants have disappeared and the residents of Pashtun neighborhoods are now feeling secure,” says Jan.
However, Mehsud transporters and elders say that now police and other law enforcement agencies harass the community on the pretext that they have been involved in providing financial support to the TTP. “We have been forced to pay millions of rupees as protection money to avoid being targeted by the TTP, mainly because of the failure of the government to provide them security,” says a Mehsud tribal elder, adding that even a number of police officers in Taliban strongholds paid “protection money” to local TTP leaders during their control.
TTP factions in city
The TTP is not a monolith. There are four factions of the TTP operating in the city.
The TTP South Waziristan faction is led by Khan Said alias Sajna and mainly comprises Mehsud militants. The group has been operating independently after leaving the TTP in May last year.
Wali headed the group in Karachi but Khan Zaman alias Goonga is operational commander of the group in Karachi, but the law enforcement agencies, in the ongoing crackdown, have killed many of their key leaders and militants, forcing them to go into hiding or flee the city.
Anwaarullah*, a Mehsud tribal elder privy to recent development, says law enforcers have killed key leaders of the faction in the recent months. They include Abid Mucharr, Abid Chota, Zikria Mehsud, Mufti Javed, Khazan Gul, Zahidullah, Ubaidullah, Amir Zada and Khwajlak. Khan Zaman and Zawel are the only remaining important commanders of the faction in the city and there is no information about Wali’s whereabouts.
Another faction of the TTP Mehsud militants is led by Sheharyar Mehsud, who is the successor of Hakimullah Mehsud. Daud Mehsud, a former policeman in Karachi, heads the group in the city. The group has been weakened in Karachi because of their fighting with militants of the TTP Sajna faction. Most of them have left the city.
The TTP Swat chapter is loyal to the organisation’s central chief, Maulana Fazlullah. In Karachi, their organisational set-up is very secretive and mainly involved in the killing of Awami National Party leaders and policemen in the West district.
The TTP Mohmand faction that renamed itself the TTP-Jamaat Ahrar after parting ways with the TTP last year is led by Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid Khurasani. The group has been weakened because of the killing of their key leaders and supporters by the law enforcement agencies.
*Names changed for privacy