Tehreek-e-Taliban, the proscribed armed group operating out of North Western Pakistan has chosen a leader to represent itself, albeit on interim basis. According to the statement issued from North Waziristan, Asmatullah Shaheen Bhittani will lead the militants until Hakimullah successor is selected in the next few days.
Hakimullah Mehsud, the former leader of Tehreek-e-Taliban along with four other militants was struck dead by the missiles fired from the US drones near Afghanistan border on Friday. In turn, TTP has ruled out the possibility of ‘peace dialogue’ with the Government of Pakistan, prompting furious response from the Pakistani government towards Washington.”Every aspect of Pakistan’s cooperation with Washington would be reviewed following Mehsud’s killing”, asserted Mr. Nisar, the Interior Minister.
The leadership vacuum created in the wake of Hakeemullah’s death still lies vacant. The militants are loosely aligned, instead preferring one group over another. Although both of the prime candidates, Khan SaeedSajna aka Khalid Mehsud and SheheryarMehsud belongsto the same tribe; the experience of latter is nil in terms of proxy warfare and is generally disfavored amongstMehsuds. There are reports that Sheheryar is favored by Fazalullah and Omer Khalid Khurasani factions, who frowns upon Sajna peace overtures.
Asmatullah – Brief Profile
Selecting Asmatullah Shaheen to lead Tehreek-e-Taliban at this critical juncture reflects the growing discord within Tehreek-e-Taliban camp. Asmatullah Shaheen is a commander hailing from the Khichi sub tribe of Bhittani, South Waziristan, and is known for his ruthless predisposition towards prisoners.
The battle hardened commander was one of the top deputies of Baitullah Mehsud, and previously fought with Haji Turkestan force (a pro government leader) multiple times. Considered as a potential successor to Baitullah, Asmatullah wasn’t allowed to ascend the leadership mantle, as he hailed from a different tribe.
Asmatullah Shaheen is considered as the lead figure of an attack on the Frontier Corps – MullazaiFort in Tank, South Waziristan. In December 2011, his militants with highly sophisticated weaponry over run the military bastion, killed an officer and kidnapped 23 other soldiers. Although seven soldiers managed to escape from the militants’ custody, the rest of the abductees were brutally tortured and murdered. The horrifically mutilated bodies – sporting 40 bullet holes each and signs of torture – were recovered from North Waziristan subsequently.