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

Jihadist Assassin says Goal of Tunisia Murders Was Chaos

Abu Muqatil at-Tunusi’s remarks in a propaganda interview also cast light on attack on Bardo Museum More

Russia Denies License to Tatar-Language TV Station in Crimea

OSCE official says denial shows 'politically selective censorship of free and independent voices in Crimea is continuing' More

Kenyan Startups Tackle Expensive Remittances Through Bitcoin

Some think services could give Western Union a run for its money, though others say it’s still got a long way to go More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leadersi
X
Aru Pande
April 01, 2015 9:09 PM
The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video For Obama, It's More Business Than Friendships With World Leaders

The rift between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put a spotlight on the importance of the American leader’s personal relationships with other world leaders and what role such friendships play in foreign policy. VOA's Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Buhari: Nigeria Has ‘Embraced Democracy’

Nigeria woke up to a new president-elect Wednesday, Muhammadu Buhari. But people say democracy is the real winner as the country embarks on its first peaceful handover of power since the end of military rule in 1999. VOA’s Anne Look reports from Abuja.
Video

Video Tiny Camera Sees Inside Blood Vessels

Ahead of any surgical procedure, doctors try to learn as much as possible about the state of the organs they plan to operate on. A new camera developed in the Netherlands can now make that easier - giving surgeons an incredibly detailed look inside blood vessels, all the way to the patient’s heart. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Latin American Groups Seek Fans at Texas Music Festival

Latin American music groups played all over Austin, Texas, during the recent South by Southwest festival, and some made fans out of locals as well as people from around the world who had come to hear music. Such exposure can boost such groups' image back home. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Stockton Community, Police, Work to Improve Relations

Relations are tense between minority communities and police departments around the United States following police shootings that have generated widely-publicized protests. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Stockton, California, where police and community groups are working toward solutions, with backing from Washington.
Video

Video Indiana Controversy Highlights Divergent Meanings of Religious Freedom

Indiana’s state government has triggered a nationwide controversy by approving a law that critics say is aimed at allowing discrimination against gays and lesbians. The controversy stems from divergent notions of religious freedom in America. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Report: State of Black America a 'Tale of Two Nations'

The National Urban League has described this year's "State of Black America" report as a "tale of two nations." The group's annual report, released earlier this month (March), found that under an equality index African Americans had only 72% parity compared to whites in areas such as education, economics, health, social justice and civic engagement. It’s a gap that educators and students at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College are looking to close. VOA's Daniela Schrier reports from the school.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials Underway in West Africa

Ebola has claimed the lives of more than 10,000 people in West Africa. Since last summer, researchers have rushed to get anti-Ebola vaccines into clinical trials. While it's too early to say that any of the potential vaccines work, some scientists say they are seeing strong results from some of the studies. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.

VOA Blogs

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