ISLAMABAD  - The demand of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) to have a demilitarised peace zone near North Waziristan Agency for future talks with the government is to keep intact its support from the main host Mehsud tribe, sources said on Sunday.
Knowledgeable sources see the outlawed TTP’s key demand as a tactical move in view of its public support from Mehsuds who had relocated to North Waziristan to keep playing as the main host of the TTP .
Former Director General ISI Lt Gen (Retd) Hameed Gul endorsed the point of view, saying: The TTP wants to have it (zone) near North Waziristan because of support of the largest tribe instead of having a venue in any other tribal agency where it might not be enjoying the same advantage.
On the other hand, credible sources in Waziristan see the TTP’s move essentially aimed at winning the public perception that Waziristan remains its stronghold.
Sources said that the TTP wants to do away with the perception that its headquarter has been relocated to Afghanistan primarily because its fugitive chief Maulvi Fazlullah is believed to be hiding in Kunur province of Afghanistan since his elevation as TTP central Ameer.
However, General Gul did not agree to the contention, saying to the best of his knowledge Maulvi Fazlullah is fully supporting the TTP peace initiative with the government because of his post-US forces drawdown vulnerabilities.
“Maulvi Fazlullah very clearly understands that he would not be able to survive in those vulnerable conditions, therefore he sincerely wants the government-TTP talks bear fruit,” General Gul remarked.
Sources privy to TTP negotiators’ political Shura endorsed General Gul’s assessment, saying the TTP’s demand for a peace zone on the edge of North Waziristan Agency offers many advantages to the outlawed militant outfit.
Sources also agreed with General Gul’s assessment that Maulvi Fazlullah is on the same page with North Waziristan Agency-based TTP leadership. They said he would never risk losing essential support of Mehsud tribe.
They were of the view that proposed peace zone near North Waziristan also offered advantage that none of the small splinter groups, reportedly opposed to talks with the government, would be able to sabotage the ongoing peace process.
“Even Haji Khan Bahadar’s group in North Waziristan is in favour of the success of government-TTP peace initiative,” a credible tribal elder from Waziristan said requesting not to be named.
He was of the view that all the major 16 groups within the umbrella of the TTP are in favour of talks with the government and have vowed to take strict action against any splinter group that tried to sabotage the peace process between the government and the TTP .
He believed Waziristan Agency would prove the safest venue for future talks if the government conceded to the TTP’s demand for creation of a demilitarised zone .