In the past week a new splinter faction of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) emerged. Claiming that the present leadership is pursuing “personal and narrow objectives”, the Jamat-ul-Ahrar is composed of key commanders with Maulana Qasim Khurasani as the new Ameer. The splintering of an already porous group means that the government and the military cannot stick to a blanket policy when it comes to militants, a fact that the past stands witness to. If nothing else, the foiled attack on 14 august at two airbases tells us that the TTP won’t go quietly into the night. After an ominous silence during Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the attack is being viewed as the first of many expected retaliatory strikes. Interestingly, first, a little-know group known as the Fidayeen-i-Islam claimed responsibility for the Quetta attacks. Subsequently the Mohmand Agency’s TTP chapter said that the attack was carried out by them, with assistance from militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. This follows a similar pattern; while the government was engaged in negotiations during a ceasefire agreed between them and the Taliban, attacks were carried out in the Islamabad district court and an FC check post in Hangu district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Responsibility was claimed by two previously unknown groups; Ahrar-ul-Hind and Ansar-ul-Mujahidin, claiming that the TTP was compromising on key issues. It is becoming increasingly common that as the government nears a conclusion to its engagement with one group, another virtually unknown group mounts an offensive.
The emergence of Jamat-ul-Ahrar has a couple of important implications. Firstly, this new group will be more decisive and violent, seeing that it has a clear objective in sight and all the dissidents are gone. Secondly, while the military might be relieved, since it won’t be presented with a united front, a long term solution might be more elusive as no one proposal will be acceptable to all factions. Finally, it is a test for the intelligence agencies, as the attack on Islamabad and Hangu showed, smaller groups can fly under the radar and unless effectively monitored, can strike despite broad security arrangements.