Pakistani Taliban united against Al Qaeda’s three enemies: “Obama, Zardari and Karzai”

Taliban’s unity and our disunity

Under instructions from Mullah Umar and “sheikh” Osama bin Laden, the three feuding warlords of Waziristan have announced reconciliation and merger under the rubric of Shura Ittehad Mujahideen (SIM). Heretofore, known as the divided house of the Taliban movement, the three warlords, Baitullah Mehsud, Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur issued a pamphlet on Sunday that vowed the targeting of Al Qaeda’s three enemies: “Obama, Zardari and Karzai”.

Pakistan has been trying to take advantage of the rifts in Waziristan. It backed Maulvi Nazir against Baitullah Mehsud for a time but could not maintain the tactic for long because Nazir would not give up striking across the Durand Line and attracting America’s missiles. (It should be mentioned that while he went along with this policy from Islamabad he never stopped verbally maintaining his allegiance to Al Qaeda.) On the call from the two leaders of the infiltrated jihad, the three have closed ranks and the consequences for Pakistan from this may be dire.

On the other hand, the political map in Pakistan is subject to multiple splits. TV discussions have audiences asserting the Pakistan’s future is not threatened by Al Qaeda. This opinion emanates from powerful sections of the media that say the war against terrorism is not Pakistan’s war. National politics, far more Machiavellian than the popular consensus, has followed the pattern of national alienation from state policy. After the PMLN literally declared war against the ruling PPP last week, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani is making moves to postpone the coming armageddon.

The three-way split, represented by the two Leagues — “N” and “Q” — on the one hand, and the PPP on the other, is worsening. The PMLQ, after having acquiesced in President General Pervez Musharraf’s firing of the Chief Justice of Pakistan in 2007, is now ready to join the lawyers’ movement and stage a “dharna” against the PPP. The PMLQ had placed itself in the middle as the PMLN and PPP squared off for their predictable jousting. It tried the PPP on for size and then flirted with the PMLN but, not being offered the kind of deal it wanted, is threatening to plump for the lawyers who are not exactly cooing in delight.

Unity among the main stakeholders, the PPP and the PMLN, is not possible because of their flaws at birth. Votes have been won against each other mainly by the pledge of revenge for past wrongs. But to shore up strength against each other they need to make ill-fitting alliances. The most incongruous alliance that the PPP has had to make at the centre is the one with the JUI of Maulana Fazlur Rehman. Seeing the PPP government getting into trouble with all kinds of elements, including the army, it has decided to support the Long March indirectly by calling for the restoration of Chief Justice Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

This means that the old MMA is coming together again. But under whose tutelage? Jama’at-e Islami is already with the lawyers and will most probably provide the cutting edge to the “dharna” with its most motivated cadres. Seeing the landscape change, the PMLN has moved in with clearer motivation: it first jolted the lawyers into recognising the PMLN as the power behind their movement, and then jolted a rather complaisant PPP with the prospect of a real showdown on the Lahore-Islamabad route in March. With MMA mullahs back in the fold, the PMLN then tried another splitting gambit.

It has made overtures to the MQM and the overtures have been readily accepted by Mr Altaf Hussain in London because he can never be sure how quickly the political scenario will change in Pakistan. With the ANP extremely uncomfortable dealing with policy from Islamabad, the coalition at the centre suddenly seems fragile. This is in contrast to the growing unity of response within the Taliban fold. Given this state of disunity, the peace deal in Swat will likely threaten the gains made by military operations elsewhere in the tribal areas. (Daily Times)