Hafiz Gul Bahadur, the Taliban commander who holds sway across restive North Waziristan Agency, has set June 10 as deadline to revoke the 2007 peace accord by asking the local dwellers to vacate the region as the government has planned to launch a full-fledged military offensive in the agency.
But, according to well-placed Taliban sources, this is just a tactical move by Hafiz to pave way for the government to target TTP affiliated militants. "He will continue to remain as 'good Taliban' and peace deal breach would never take place," one of Hafiz top aides said on condition of anonymity.
Another well-placed source further disclosed that just last week he had hours-long meeting with Maulana Fazlur Rehman in Islamabad at Maulana's official residence in Parliament Lodges. "Hafiz visited Maulana and discussed multiple issues including possible military operation in North Waziristan, recent aerial strikes by Pakistani military in Mir Ali and Miranshah where dozens of innocent civilians were killed, and rift within TTP and its possible fallout etc. Maulana advised him not to take any such step that could breach the 2007 peace accord with Pakistani government and not to indulge in intra-TTP feud," a source privy to Maulana who also attended the meeting told this scribe on condition of anonymity.
Maulana Sadiq Noor, deputy to Hafiz Gul Bahadur, soon after the leaflets were distributed across North Waziristan asked the local residents not to get panicked as that was not meant to them. "Our actual aim is to force TTP affiliated Taliban to leave the area and not the local tribesmen," a senior Taliban commander said on phone from Miranshah.
According to sources in Waziristan, Hafiz is under immense pressure from the Dawar and Wazir tribesmen of North Waziristan to expel TTP tied militants after the recent aerial strike that killed dozens of innocent civilians, majority from Dawar tribe. Pakistani military officials said that around 70 militants including commanders and foreigners were killed during the recent air strikes and gunfights in the area, however, militants and some locals alleged that majority of the victims were civilians. The gunship helicopters pounded especially the Mir Ali Bazaar that presents a deserted look at the moment and the tribesmen have lost their businesses. The locals are enraged.
Aleem Khan Wazir, a member of Hafiz Gul Bahadur-led Shura, is making efforts to assuage the angry locals. "He is convincing the locals to oust TTP, as Mir Ali was targeted due to the presence of TTP in the area," a militant commander quoted Aleem Khan as saying. "He also advised the local tribesmen to remain in their homes, as there is no military operation on the cards at the moment."
Shura-e-Mujahedeen (SeM), advisory council led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur, issued a statement on Friday, setting June 10 as a deadline for the local tribesmen to shift their families to safer places as after the expiration of the deadline, clashes could take place between security forces and militants. "Until June 10, every individual is allowed if he can work for peace in the area, otherwise the peace accord between the government and militants would be considered as null and void," reads a pamphlet.
Hafiz also asserted that he would welcome any initiative by any individual for establishing peace in the area. "Everyone is requested if he can play any role to bring back peace in the area and it would be a highly commendable step," the leaflet says.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur, who hails from Madda Khel sub-clan of Utmanzai Wazir, is a known 'good Taliban' who rose to prominence as a militant commander in 2005 when Pakistan military launched operation in North Waziristan. In October 2006 he signed a peace accord with the government. The agreement was violated by both the sides for a short period but in August 2007 a new agreement was signed which is still intact.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur always threatened to break the agreement but it never happened. He has a soft corner for Pakistan and his fighters reportedly fight across the border in Afghanistan side by side with Haqqani network. "All the Mujahideen are informed not to send fighters across the border into Afghanistan (after June) and to focus over the defence of Waziristan," reads the pamphlet that clearly suggests that Hafiz Gul Bahadur's men are involved in across border activities.
According to the leaflet, the tribesmen have been directed to shift temporally to areas like Data Khel from where they could migrate into Afghanistan. The Taliban also asked the locals to avoid living in government camps established for internally displaces persons (IDPs).
Hafiz Gul Bahadur has a long history of warning the government to revoke the peace accord but always the warnings remained mere tactics to pursue some agendas.
Also On November 1, 2013 Hafiz Gul Bahadur had asked the tribesmen living in Miranshah Bazaar, Darpa Khel, Miranshah Kalay, Datta Khel, Tappi and Danday etc to vacate their homes within one week which was an indirect warning to the government for breaching the peace accord. The deadline expired but no action was taken.
On the other hand, North Waziristan based grand tribal Jirga on May 27 last issued two pages leaflet condemning the recent aerial shelling in North Waziristan. The Jirga which was presided over by Haji Sheer Muhammad urged the government to "immediately halt all unannounced military operations in North Waziristan and dispute should be resolved through peace talks."
The Jirga was taken place at Khushhali Road, Mir Ali, and was attended by the elders hailing from both Wazir and Dawar tribes. "We sternly condemn the recent callous operation, aerial shelling, and curfew by Pakistani government. We would not tolerate any such action in future," the leaflet states.
- (The writer is a freelance contributor, based in Islamabad).