ISLAMABAD - Pakistani security apparatus is these days keenly and minutely observing the near future course of action and designs of al-Qaeda elements in North Waziristan as intermittent targeted operation against the militant groups operating under the banner of Tahreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) continues in those areas and elsewhere, sources in the tribal agency said.
For the moment, the only consolation in these testing times when Pakistan military is taking on TTP and foreign fighters is the operational reliance of al-Qaeda and TTP on Punjabi Taliban, especially in areas of the country other than KPK. Security officials have often pointed out fingers towards Punjabi Taliban for providing support and logistic facilities to al-Qaeda and TTP for carrying out devastating terrorist attacks in urban areas and military installation of Pakistan, in the past. Lately, political expediency and pressure from ideological based leaders in Pakistan has helped in neutralising Punjabi Taliban as far as terrorist strikes in Pakistan are concerned, it was reliably learnt.
Qaeda-affiliated group led by Ustad Ahmed Farooq these days is present in Miran Shah area of North Waziristan but is mysteriously silent operationally. Some security officials believe this is the most potent force in the al-Qaeda arsenal and could prove devastating if unleashed in urban areas of the country. Badar Mansoor Group, Saifur Rehman Saifi, Asmatullah Muavia, Adnan Rashid are other known powerful figures and groups who have close links with al-Qaeda. Punjabi Taliban are now considered the core of al-Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal and settled areas.
“Instead of Pushtun elements, al-Qaeda relies on Punjabi Taliban and foreign fighters including Arabs, Chachens, Uzbaks,” said an observer who interacts with TTP as well as pro-Pakistan military tribal men on regular basis. Many of these al-Qaeda affiliate and sympathiser groups are these days operating out of North Waziristan tribal area reportedly while rest of their operators and supporters keep a low profile in settled areas of KPK and other parts of the country.
This is why the Pakistani Interior Minister Ch Nisar Ali Khan recently rubbished a television report which termed capital Islamabad and twin city Rawalpindi as very dangerous in presence of al-Qaeda sleeper cells. Some Pakistani security officials believe as far as Punjabi Taliban remain neutralised, the terrorist threat level in cities and towns remains very low. Political steps and persuasion by PML-N led by Sharifs has played a major role in pacifying Punjabi Taliban and distancing them from TTP during the last few months.
Independent terrorism experts believe, al-Qaeda, now basically comprising foreign fighters, has been operationally silent in towns and cities of Pakistan for many months now. Since reported exodus of its main leadership from this area over various reasons, it is relying operationally on powerful groups of Punjabi Taliban like Asmatullah Muavia, the same person who annoyed the slain TTP Chief Hakimullah Mehsud when he favoured talks with Pakistani government.
Asmatullah, sources believe, is ideologically very close to Malik Ishaq, Lashkare Jhangvi leader having proximity with some ruling party leaders. Later on, Hakimullah also agreed on talks but was killed by an American drone late last year, which annoyed the Pakistani government greatly which was seriously and secretly pursuing contacts with the slain TTP chief.
The strong group of Punjabi Taliban led by Asmatullah Muavia has been openly favouring peace talks with the government since the peace overtures started from TTP and government ranks. Muavia took over reigns of this group after the death of Usman Punjabi who was blamed for high profile attacks on Pakistan Army Headquarters, Parade Line Masjid attack in Rawalpindi, attacks on Manawan Elite police training institute Lahore, and attack on an Ahmadi mosque in Lahore.
Saifur Rehmnan Saifi has been blamed for Church attack in Peshawar. Adanan Rashid, who now remains elusive in tribal areas of Pakistan after the infamous Bannu jail break, was a former Pakistan Air Force technician and he was also blamed for attacks on Ex-President General retired Pervez Musharraf.