Decisive offensive against Baitullah Mehsud?

Posted on June 15, 2009
Filed Under >Jauhar Ismail, Politics
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Jauhar Ismail

The Pakistan government on Sunday announced a “decisive offensive” against the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) chief and Pakistan’s public enemy number one, Baitullah Mehsud. Baitullah is widely “credited” for dozens of brazen and spectacular attacks across Pakistan, the most recent being the Pearl Continental (PC) bombing in Peshawar and the killing of a prominenet anti-Taliban cleric Dr. Naeemi in a suicide attack at Jamia Naeemia in Lahore.

Announcing the operation, the NWFP Governor, Owais Ghani, described Baitullah as the “root cause of all evils”. The federally administrated Tribal Areas (FATA) have a long history of warlords but Baitullah’s nexus with Al-Qaeda has brought enomorous death and destruction to Pakistan. Based in the biggest tribal agency of South Waziristan, approximately the size of the U.S. state of Connecticut, Baitullah commands ten to fifteen thousand well armed battle hardened militants.

A significant percentage of his warriors are non-Pakistani foreign elements including Uzbeks, Chechens, Afghani and Arabs. Unlike some of the other warlords hailing from FATA that are more interested in fighting the NATO and U.S. forces across the border in Afghanistan, Baitullah’s primary focus has always been the Pakistani state. He is also widely suspected to be behind the murder of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

While the military analysts disagree on the timing for this operation, there is no disagreement that crushing Baitullah and his militant network is a prerequisite for curbing the tsunami of terrorism engulfing Pakistan. In addition to providing sanctuary to top level Al-Qaeda leadership, TTP is also running several suicide training camps in South Waziristan. He has also made successful attempts to fuse together various terrorist groups to fight their “common enemies”.

The current operation will be Pakistan army’s forth attempt to deal with Baitullah Mehsud. All the previous attempts failed to achieve their objectives and government ended up signing truce agreements with the warlord which only served to increase his clout and power. While the history may not be on their side, there are several factors that make the latest operation different from the past:
1. Despite the high cost of 2.5 million refugees, the operation Rah-e-Rast in Swat has achieved considerable success especially when compared to previous attempts. The Swat branch of TTP led by Moulana Fazlullah is largely destroyed. Although the top leadership of Swat Taliban has avoided death or capture, a number of mid to low level commanders has been killed or captured. More importantly the army has secured all the major cities and towns in the Swat valley and the remaining militants are mostly confined to their mountain hideouts.

2. The public opinion in Pakistan has turned decisively against the Taliban. While some political parties such as Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) , Jamat Islami (JI) and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) of Imran Khan continue to show sympathy towards the Taliban, they are now in a distinct minority. Almost all major political parties back the current operation in Swat and want to take it to its logical conclusion.

3. The security establishment in Pakistan has finally come to realize the threat posed by Taliban. According to Riffat Hussain, a professor of defense and strategic studies at Qaid-i-Azam University at Islamabad, military’s perception of Taliban has transformed from “Pakistan’s second line of defense against India” to a serious threat to the state itself in the last 6 months.

4. For the first time, the Pakistani intelligence services has had some success in their efforts to create divisions inside the Mehsud tribe. The daily Telegraph reported that a significant Mehsud commander Qari Zainuddi is now openly challenging the rule of Baitullah and is poised to fight against him. There are also reports that other key tribal commanders in the adjacent FATA agencies have vowed to remain neutral instead of siding with Baitullah as the final showdown looms in South Waziristan. It is believed that Baitullah’s focus on [attacks inside] Pakistan and the brutality of his and Al-Qaeda accomplices are largely responsible for this change.

The coming days and weeks will show the seriousness of Pakistan in battling some of the very people once nurtured by the state but all indications point to a tougher, messier and prolonged battle. The daily carnage of terrorist attacks is likely to surge and test the will of Pakistani people. One can only hope that this time, it will be different for this is a fight for the very future of Pakistan.

9 responses to “Decisive offensive against Baitullah Mehsud?”

  1. Aamir Ali says:

    I agree with this article except the part about the Pakistani state nurturing Baitullah Mehsud. That has never been the case. Mehsud went to join the Taliban in Afghanistan during the 90’s, then escaped back into Pakistan after 9/11 and began his Taliban franchise in Waziristan.

    He is indeed the biggest terrorist in Pakistan today and the main inspiration for other militants including the Lal Masjid cross-dresser.

  2. No-Pc says:

    Its hard to see how this will all end, but once a British Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon, said

  3. Nostalgic says:

    Kill him.

    And all his cohorts, lieutenants, employees, sympathizers and apologists.

    And for good measure, a rocket aimed at that cross-dressing Lal Masjid maulvi would be nice too.

  4. faisal says:

    This is the second time I became proud of Pak. Army, the first being when they took on the “peaceful” mullahs of Lal Masjid.

    As a nation we need declare clearly, “WE WONT BE TAKEN HOSTAGE BY THUGS IN THE NAME OF FALSE SHARIA.”

  5. Yousuf says:

    Take him down once and for all.

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