ISLAMABAD - The Shehriar Mehsud group of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has asked the central leadership of the network to sack Commander Azam Tariq from any key position in the outfit and has alleged that being a member of the TTP's central political Shura the commander was biased during the recent infighting in South Waziristan.

According to local and militant sources, if the decision came in favour of Shehriar Mehsud, then there are strong chances that Commander Azam Tariq and Commander Sajna (both from the same group) would part ways with the central leadership of TTP and enter the ranks of the 'good Taliban' like Salahuddin Ayoubi (the successor of Mullah Nazir) and Hafiz Gul Bahadar of North Waziristan. 'Good Taliban' are those who only fight in Afghanistan while 'bad Taliban' favour 'holy jihad' on both sides of the Duran Line.

The infighting had erupted in South Waziristan earlier this month when the fighters of Commander Shehriar Mehsud and Commander Sajna, both commanders in TTP, engaged in bloody fighting to control South Waziristan's strategically important areas.

"Despite being a member of TTP central political Shura, Azam Tariq supported Sajna during those clashes; we have raised the issue before the central leadership and have demanded his sacking from any key post in the organization," said a member of Shehriar group on the condition of anonymity. "We have been assured about the accountability of Azam Tariq".

Azam Tariq is a leading commander in South Waziristan-based militants. Currently he is a key member of Taliban's political Shura, which is negotiating with the government. Previously he also worked as central spokesperson of TTP as well as the media coordinator of the South Waziristan chapter under the name 'Commander Asim Mehsud'.

Qari Shakeel Ahmed Haqqani, also known as Qari Shakeel, leads the nine-member political Shura of TTP, which held a direct meeting with the government Committee in North Waziristan in the last week of March. Azam Tariq, Maulvi Bashir and Maulvi Zakir are the other important members of the Shura while the outfit has so far kept secret the names of the remaining five members. "Apart from Azam Tariq, the rest of the members of the political Shura are hardliner militants who are strictly following the orders of Maulana Fazlullah - whether to fight or not", said militant sources.

There is a common belief amongst the ranks of the militants that the intelligence agencies have now taken Commander Sajna and his close allies, including Azam Tariq, in their hands and will use them against the central leadership of the TTP to weaken the outfit.

On April 16, Azam Tariq and TTP central spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid gave different statements over the same issue of ceasefire. "The central committee of TTP has unanimously decided not to extend the ceasefire agreement", said Shahid, while Azam Tariq in a text message sent to media persons said, "The refusal of ceasefire extension does not mean the announcement of war".

It is apt to mention here that in a recent decision of the central leadership, in the first week of April, TTP had said that the central spokesperson of the outfit will issue policy statements. "TTP's Omer Media is authorized to release the policy statement; and the central spokesperson will have the authority to speak to media or policy statements would be released from his official email address", said the statement. 

The clashes, that killed dozens of men, are now under control but the situation is going from bad to worse with each passing day. Earlier, it was simply a fight between Shehriar Mehsud and Commander Sajna who had challenged each other's authority. But Shehriar Mehsud men's allegation that Commander Azam Tariq was biased during the fighting is 'something serious'.

Inside sources in TTP are of the view that there is hardly any chance that the TTP in South Waziristan would again reunite, as happened in the past.

The sources have also revealed that people representing good Taliban groups - like Hafiz Gul Bahadar group of North Waziristan and Haqqani network - have started visiting Commander Sajna and Azam Tariq. "They are trying to divert the attention of militants from fighting against Pakistani security forces to NATO-led troops in Afghanistan".

At the moment Commander Sajna's men are strong in areas like Shaktoi and Babura while Shehriar Mehsud is also pulling his men together to take control in South Waziristan. Sajna enjoys the backing of senior commander like Commander Azam Tariq and Commander Shamim and all those militants who want peace in Mehsud dominated areas of South Waziristan. The sources say that the central leadership of TTP will go all-out to support Shehriar Mehsud, as they will not like the area to fall to yet another potential 'good Taliban', as this is the hometown of TTP founding leader Baitullah Mehsud, his successor Hakimullah Mehsud, and many more key commanders.

The writer is a freelance contributor.