News / Asia

Pakistani Taliban Faction Rivalry Erupts in Violence

x
Reuters
A struggle for power between Pakistani Taliban commanders divided over whether to talk to the government has erupted in violence with dozens of fighters killed along the Afghan border over recent weeks, Pakistani security officials said.
 
It is unclear if the fighting will weaken an insurgency aimed at bringing down the nuclear-armed Pakistani state but the security agencies will be hoping to turn the bloodshed to their advantage.
 
The violence is between rivals in the Mehsud tribe, one of numerous ethnic Pashtun groups that straddle the Afghan-Pakistan border who have for generations battled outsiders to preserve their autonomy, and often each other over feuds.
 
The Pakistani Taliban, a loose alliance of militant groups drawn largely from Pashtun communities, have been fighting for years to overthrow the government and impose strict Islamic law.
 
The rivals are from the same sub-group of the Mehsuds, a tribe based in the South Waziristan region that provides the Taliban the bulk of their money and many of their fighters.
 
On one side is a commander called Khan “Sajna” Said, who is in his mid-thirties and acts as an arbitrator for the Taliban in Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, and controls lucrative extortion rackets there, said an analyst with extensive contacts in the insurgency.
 
Sajna supports peace talks with the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Taliban commanders said.
 
But his rival, Shehryar Mehsud, is against the tentative talks that began in February and one of his commander said attacks on the government would go on regardless.
 
“We will continue attacks even if they sign a peace agreement,” the commander said, adding that his men had killed 20 of Sajna's fighters and razed a dozen of their training camps in South Waziristan in the past week.
 
Mehsud recently returned from Afghanistan, where he spent years in exile after quarreling with previous Taliban leaders. He has access to foreign money and thinks he should lead since he comes from a prominent family, a militant insider said.
 
Government and military spokesmen did not return calls seeking comment.
 
“No central command”
 
The fighting underscores the difficulty of trying to negotiate a peace deal with an insurgency that has no unified command, an analyst said.
 
“The Pakistani Taliban are unlike the Afghan Taliban. They are a loose alliance, they have no central command,” said author Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the militants. “Exactly who are we talking to? This is a question Nawaz Sharif has never answered.”
 
Such bloody rivalry is not uncommon. The current violence is rooted in a conflict between the previous leader of the Pakistani Taliban and his deputy, who were killed in separate attacks by missile-firing U.S. drones last year.
 
The government would be trying to seek advantage but had to tread carefully, said a security analyst.
 
“The policy of the civilian government is to make these people fight among themselves,” said retired general Talat Masood. “But if one wins, it will emerge stronger and far more dangerous.”
 
The analyst with the insurgent contacts said the government was trying to exploit the split by getting Sajna to agree not to attack government forces.
 
“They have sent Sajna several message but he has yet to respond,” said the analyst.
 
Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said commanders were trying to get the rivals to talk.
 
Imtiaz Gul of the Islamabad-based Center for Research and Security Studies said the clashes were likely at least partly related to money.
 
“Tribal commanders are also plugged into organized crime and at time the feuds may not be stemming from political differences,” Gul said.
 
Although security officials would be hoping the split would weaken the insurgency, Gul said he doubted it would.
 
The insurgents may be afraid of each other, he said, but they are even more afraid of being divided and picked off alone.

You May Like

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: US Army Turns Its Best Minds Toward Ebola

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey More

Dissident Venezuelan General Resurfaces in New York

Antonio Rivero has resurfaced after nearly a year in hiding, appearing at United Nations in New York More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Goghi
X
George Putic
January 29, 2015 9:43 PM
The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Super Bowl Ads Compete for Eyes on TV, Web

Super Bowl Sunday (Feb. 1) is about more than just the NFL's American football championship and big parties to watch the game. Viewers also tune in for the world famous commercials that send Facebook and Twitter abuzz. Daniela Schrier reports on the social media rewards for America’s priciest advertising.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Freedom on Decline Worldwide, Report Says

The state of global freedom declined for the ninth consecutive year in 2014, according to global watchdog Freedom House's annual report released Wednesday. VOA's William Gallo has more.
Video

Video MRI Seems to Help Diagnose Prostate Cancer, Preliminary Study Shows

Just as with mammography used to detect breast cancer, there's a lot of controversy about tests used to diagnose prostate cancer. Fortunately, a new study shows doctors may now have a more reliable way to diagnose prostate cancer for high risk patients. More from VOA's Carol Pearson.
Video

Video Smartphones About to Make Leap, Carry Basic Senses

Long-distance communication contains mostly sounds and pictures - for now. But scientists in Britain say they are close to creating additions for our smartphones that will make it possible to send taste, smell and even a basic touch. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.
Video

Video Crowded Republican Presidential Field Off to Early Start for 2016

It seems early, but the 2016 U.S. presidential election campaign is already heating up. Though no one has officially announced a candidacy, several potential Republican contenders have been busy speaking to conservative groups about making a White House run next year. Many of the possible contenders are critical of the Obama administration’s foreign policy record. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid