Taliban changing tack as religion no longer working: Editorial

June 8th, 2009 - 3:52 pm ICT by IANS  

Taliban Islamabad, June 8 (IANS) The killing of two aides of radical cleric Sufi Mohammad who had brokered a controversial peace deal between the Taliban and the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government points to a change in the militants’ tactics as religion no longer seems to be working for them, an editorial in a leading English daily said Monday.
“Religion is no longer working for Baitullah Mehsud as the national consensus in Pakistan veers against his TTP,” Daily Times said in an editorial headlined “Possible change in Taliban tactics”.

Mehsud’s Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is the umbrella organisation of the various Taliban groups operating in Pakistan.

According to Daily Times, the June 6 killings of Sufi Muhammad’s close aides “poses a conundrum that must be carefully probed for new signals”, while the abduction June 1 of 80 cadets of an army-run college and the suicide bombing Saturday at a police office in Islamabad “have also to be understood in a different light”.

The military says Sufi Mohammad’s aides Maulana Alam amd Amir Izzat were being transported from NWFP’s Lower Dir district to provincial capital Peshawar in an army vehicle when an IED (improvised explosive device) planted on the road went off. After that, the Taliban attacked and finished off the two men along with an army soldier.

“Here, the reference to an IED is quite normal,” the editorial said, adding: “Many roads in the region are booby-trapped with these devices; but why should the Taliban then attack the vehicle and kill the inmates if they were not dead already?

“If the story is not concocted to cover up the killing of the two men by the army, then what is it?” the editorial asked and then provided the answers

Firstly, “it could not have been a put-up job because one casualty in it was apparently an army NCO (non-commissioned officer)”.

Then, “why should the Taliban attack an already disabled vehicle when they knew - it is not possible that they did not know who the captives were - that Maulana Alam and Amir Izzat were in it?

“The two men were too big locally not to have attracted attention to the vehicle. The truth could be that the vehicle was blown up by the IED that killed the men and then the Taliban opened fire on the army convoy.

“Be that as it may, if the Taliban killed them it points to a change in the TTP policy” on Sufi Mohammad’s Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) “now that the latter is no longer needed”, the editorial maintained.

Sufi Mohammad had in February brokered the peace deal under which the Taliban were to lay down their arms in return for Sharia laws in Swat and six other districts of the NWFP that are collectively known as the Malakand division.

The Taliban, however, reneged and moved south from their Swat headquarters to occupy Buner, which is just 100 km from Islamabad, prompting the military to move against them April 26.

The military says over 1,300 Taliban have so far been killed in the fighting.

As for the cadets’ abduction - the army had subsequently freed them - when they were taken to Makin, Mehsud’s headquarters in South Waziristan, they were asked if there were any non-Pakhtuns among them.

“This was immediately taken by the students to mean that the Taliban had planned to kill any Punjabi cadets,” the editorial said.

“Although Punjabi auxiliaries from the jihadi militias are being used by the Taliban in their suicide missions, the policy could be exploring the ethnic vector in the affected region. It could also support accusations by official circles that some hostile agencies are funding Mehsud,” the editorial pointed out.

The Islamabad bombing, Daily Times said, was related to disabling the police system of advance warning and reaching an area of attack on time.

The fact that the attack was foiled and the suicide bomber was prevented from entering the building “also means that Pakistan’s ability to face terrorist attacks is improving by the day”.

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