What does TTP want?

Closer to Al Qaeda than to Afghan Taliban, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is a formidable challenge for Islamabad

What does TTP want?
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is an umbrella organization of 13 militant Islamist groups that united under the command of Baitullah Mehsud in December 2007. Since then, it has been responsible for thousands of terrorist attacks, including suicide bombings.

In 2008, Baitullah Mehsud met Al Qaeda leader Dr Aymen al-Zawahiri in South Waziristan and shifted his loyalties from Mullah Omar, the emir of the Afghan Taliban, to Osama Bin Laden, then chief of Al Qaeda. Between 2003 and 2007, the TTP had killed 4,346 civilians and soldiers. After allying with Al Qaeda in 2008, it has killed 19,459 people so far. With its proxies spread across Pakistan, the group is now considered the number one enemy of Pakistan.

The estimated strength of the TTP is between 30,000 and 35,000. It has operational influence in North and South Waziristan, Bajaur Agency, Mohmand Agency, Orakzai Agency, Kurram Agency, Khyber Agency, Darra Adamkhel, Karachi, Mastung, Khuzdar, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Rahimyar Khan, Multan, Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, and towns on the Pakistan-Iran border.

The group is run by a shura headed by its emir Mullah Fazlullah. Sheikh Khalid Haqqani is his deputy. Sheharyar Mehsud is the commander in North Waziristan, Khan Said heads the South Waziristan chapter, and Abdul Wali is in charge in Mohmand Agency. Asmatullah Muawiya heads the TTP Punjab faction, Mangal Bagh heads the Lashkar-e-Islam in Khyber Agency, and Adnan Rasheed is the chief of Ansar Al-Aseer. Other key leaders include Hafiz Dolat, the TTP’s emir in Kurram Agency, Muhammad Arif, who heads the TTP in Darra Adamkhel, Peshawar, Kohat and Hangu, Hafiz Saeed Khan, the emir in Orakzai Agency, Abu Bakar, in charge in Bajaur Agency, Shah Jehan of TTP Swabi, Shakeel Ahmed Haqqani, the head of the political shura of the TTP, and Qazi Hammad, the Qazi or chief justice.

[quote]Taliban have made huge investments in various businesses in Karachi, and are involved in organized crime[/quote]

The group has developed a very sophisticated command structure over the years and operates through its various franchises spread across Pakistan. Their main affiliates are Harkatul Jihad Al Islami, Qari Saifullah Akhtar Group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and some Chechen and German-Turk groups.

According to a top intelligence official, “the TTP runs like a corporate business giving out its franchises to spread terror around Pakistan, sometimes for ideological reasons and sometimes for money to the highest bidders, who are normally Afghan intelligence agents working to destabilize Pakistan.”

The group depends heavily on funding from organized crime and has taken fatwas in its favor from various Arab commanders and local clerics declaring income from bank robberies, kidnapping for ransom and smuggling as “baitul maal” or legitimate money. Shahidullah Shahid, a TTP spokesman, confirmed on record that the Afghan Taliban had financially backed his network, and supported Mullah Fazlullah during his stay in the Kunar province of Afghanistan.

Azam Tariq, another TTP spokesman, said although the Afghan Taliban continue to inspire the Pakistani Taliban, there was a change in their position in 2008, because of the Afghan Taliban’s closeness with the Pakistani military and security agencies. “There is a feeling among the mujahedeen in Pakistan that Mullah Omar and the Afghan Taliban are too soft.”

According to statistics compiled by the Ministry of Interior, the TTP runs a syndicate worth $50-120 million per month from protection money, drugs and extortion alone. “The TTP and its affiliates have made Karachi their financial hub,” said police officer Raja Umar Khatab. “They have made huge investments in various businesses, apart from involvement in organized crime.”

A key factor in the TTP’s growth and its continued strength is its mobility. Taliban militants can move across the border from Pakistan to Afghanistan and from Afghanistan to Pakistan with ease. Recently, the US had arrested a top TTP leader Latif Mehsud while he was negotiating with the Karzai government through Arsallah Jamal, the governor of Logar province.

“We had produced evidence twice to Afghanistan on how they were funding certain factions of the TTP, but they did nothing,” a Pakistani military commander said.

As the debate intensifies in Pakistan over dialogue with the Taliban, the TTP has come out with its demands. “We have a clear agenda: to destroy the US and its allies in the region,” said Azam Tariq. “Talks can only start when the Pakistan government completely stops operations against us.”

The PML-N led government has said it wants to negotiate with the Taliban, but a top US commander says the talks will not succeed. “The dialogue will fail for two obvious reasons – the TTP’s proximity with Al Qaeda, and its distance from the Afghan Taliban.”