ISLAMABAD - In a major policy shift, the Punjabi Taliban on Saturday announced that they are quitting their armed struggle in Pakistan and will start preaching to the masses the true sense of Islam and Islamic sharia, though the outfit reiterated its support for global jihad against the infidel forces.

Asmatullah Muawiya, the head of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Punjab, also known as Punjabi Taliban, in his three minute video message sent to the media said, “After consultation with Muslim ulema and elders we have decided to quit armed struggle in Pakistan and start preaching in the country.” He however added that the outfit will support all ‘mujahedeen’ who are undertaking jihad against infidel forces.

According to the Punjabi Taliban, the policy shift has occurred in the best interest of Islam and the Pakistani masses, especially to protect their identity as Muslims while the outfit also appealed to Pashtun militants and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif-led government to solve their disputes through negotiations.

“For the sake of the Muslim Ummah, I request both (Pashtun) Taliban and the government of Pakistan to come to the negotiation table for talks and defeat the hidden enemies in their nefarious designs, Muawiya said.

He thinks that for the implementation of Islamic sharia, the common man should be taught about religion, system of Islamic Caliphate and Islamic culture. “They (masses) even consider the already established political system as an Islamic system, which is something worrying”. According to him, the common people lack understanding of Islamic sharia and there was a dire need for a campaign (preaching) to make them know about their religion.

People will be taught about the Islamic Caliphate and its benefits and told about the un-Islamic aspects of the established democratic systems and demerits of western democracy, the Taliban leader said. In his opinion the existing religious movements were not enough to meet the demands of the day.

“A few religious organisations are already working in this field but they are now influenced by politics,” he had said in another message earlier this month.

The head of the Punjabi Taliban has always supported negotiation with the government and this pro-talks approach caused him to quit Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Last year he parted ways with the Hakimullah Mehsud-led TTP over the issue of talks with the government.

Asmatullah Muawiya wants an end to the military operation Zarb-i-Azb which the security forces launched on June 15 against the militants in North Waziristan. While looking upset over the miseries of almost one million internally displaced persons (IDPs) of North Waziristan, he appealed for the immediate repatriation of the tribesmen to their homes.

“I request the government to rehabilitate the tribesmen; it is unwise to leave the tribesmen at the mercy of enemies. They should be compensated and those who have crossed over into Afghanistan should be facilitated to return to their homes”, he asked to the government.

Just like other “good” Taliban commanders, Muawiya supports the idea of fighting in Afghanistan and thinks that “the current situation of Pakistan does not justify internal jihad”. He always supported international jihad and terms Mullah Omar of Afghanistan as Ameer ul Mu’mineen. “We have decided to support the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and follow Mullah Omar in the field of jihad,” according to one of his previous statements.

Asmatullah Muawiya, who previously worked as a commander of Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), parted ways with ‘Maulana’ Masood Azhar following the Lal Masjid operation in 2007. He went to the tribal areas of the country along with dozens of his comrades and formed his own faction to avenge the killings in Lal Masjid operation. Until August 2013, the Punjabi Taliban remained under TTP. According Muawiya, he twice went to Indian occupied Kashmir and a number of times to Afghanistan for jihad.

Meanwhile, according to a private TV channel, Asmatullah Muawiya along with his supporters surrendered to army at Attock Fort on Saturday night.