THE capture of Maulvi Umar, a success hot on the heels of the killing of Baitullah Mehsud, is another blow for the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan. Umar is the most high-profile of TTP leaders captured to date and, as a member of the TTP central shura, he will know much about the
dynamics of that network, its strengths and weaknesses and its future plans. Hopefully, information obtained from Umar will lead to the capture and elimination of more militant leaders in the days to come. In the wake of Mehsud’s death, the succession issue has still not been sorted out by the TTP and indications are that the various commanders unified under Mehsud could soon seriously start fighting one another. Indeed, it appears that Umar was travelling to Orakzai Agency for consultations or to mediate on the succession issue. So, in such an already confused situation with the foot soldiers of the TTP potentially demoralised, the capture of a senior leader of the TTP could lead to rapid successes against its various factions.
Yet, Umar’s capture will cause renewed concern about the state’s tenuous writ in vast tracts of Fata. Initial media reports put the success down to the actions of a tribal lashkar in Mohmand, but it now appears that the individuals involved in Umar’s capture may in fact be pro-government Taliban fighters. And the ease with which Umar was reportedly travelling between the Mohmand, Bajaur and Orakzai agencies is also unsettling. No doubt Fata is a vast area of treacherous terrain and tracking the movement of small groups of people is very difficult. However, all three agencies that Umar was reportedly traversing are agencies in which the security forces have launched various operations in the recent past. Whatever the successes of those operations, clearly more, much more, remains to be done before the state can claim to have an acceptable degree of control over the situation there.
Indeed, the main question has yet to be answered: does the state have a coherent, workable plan for regaining some semblance of control over Fata and eliminating the safe havens of militants there? Complicating that question is the fact that it is not clear yet if the security forces are in the process of mopping up in Malakand division or whether they are hunkering down for a guerrilla war in the months ahead. If the security forces get bogged down in Swat, it is debatable whether they will seriously consider tackling the vastly bigger mess that is Fata. So while Maulvi Umar’s capture is a boon, it raises more questions than it answers. (Dawn)