Categorized | South Asian Politics

Split in Pakistani Taliban, a good news for Pakistan

Posted on 30 October 2014 by admin

Dr. Hasan Askari
The emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) movement or the Daaish Movement took Iraq and the rest of the world by surprise.
This organization represents an extreme and hardline political expression of the Salafi and the Wahhabi Islamic tradition. Its leader Abubakar Bagdadi is not a new person in the field of Islamic militancy. Most of its activists and leaders either worked with Al-Qaeda or they belonged to other organizations that maintained good relations with Al-Qaeda. These people were involved in challenging the Iraq government led by Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. Some of these activists took up arms against the Bashar al-Assad’s government in Syria. At one time, the Islamic militant movements working against the Iraqi and Syrian governments enjoyed the political and financial backing from Saudi Arabia.
The new organization emerged on the political scene in 2014, challenging the Iraqi government. As a large number of people were alienated by the policies of the government of Nouri Al-Maliki they opted for the Islamic State (IS) movement. It is equally challenging the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad.
The Islamic State Movement represents the desire of its leadership to carve out a role for itself which is independent of other militant organization and especially Al-Qaeda. In fact it has weakened Al-Qaeda because its activists in some Middle Eastern countries are joining this organization.
One major reason for the popularity of this movement in Iraq is that the government of Nouri al-Maliki ruled Iraq for over 8 years (May 2006—September 2014) but he excluded whom he did not trust as his loyalists. He placed his loyalists on all important places and ignored many Sunni groups that were averse to Al-Qaeda and other militant Islamic movement. Consequently he alienated more people and had to be replaced by a new Prime Minister after the latest election in Iraq in 2014. However, the damage was done and a large number of people, both Sunnis and Shias were alienated by Al-Maliki’s personalized rule.
It was not therefore difficult for the Islamic State Movement to attract support from those against the government policies. The Islamic State Movement is known for its brutal methods which include quick execution and other strict punishments for defiance.
Being an ideological and brutal movement, Islamic State has opened several fronts. It is fighting against several adversaries at the same time. Had it confined itself with challenging the Iraqi and Syrian governments, it would have enjoyed Saudi support. However, it also targeted the Kurdish areas in Iraq and Syria. It also threatened to challenge other conservative Arab states, including Saudi Arabia. Above all, it made an open challenge to the United States and other Europeans.
Such a strategy enabled all these states to work together to fighting against the Islamic State Movement. The Kurds of Iraq and Syria are fighting against this movement because it is threatening their exclusive areas in both countries.
The U.S. faces a dilemma. On the one hand it want to overthrow Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad. On the other hand it does not want the anti-American hardline Islamic groups, especially the Islamic State Movement, to take over the state after ousting Bashar al-Assad. The U.S. is not only opposing the Islamic State movement in Syria but also helping moderate opposition to take the lead role in challenging the Syrian government. However, the moderate groups are not strong enough to oust Bashar al-Assad all alone.
In case of Iraq, the U.S. is supporting the new Iraqi government led by Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi (Since September 2014). The U.S. is using its Air Force to target the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria but the movement continues to be powerful to challenge the Kurds, the Iraqi government and Syrian government as well as the moderate group in opposition to the Syrian government.
The Islamic State movement has attracted Muslims elsewhere, including those living in North America and the Europe. These are the Muslims who are not fully adjusted in Western societies and feel them to be strangers. They are attracted by hardline and puritanical ideological Islamic disposition of this movement. Earlier, many people were attracted by the Al-Qaeda ideology.
In Pakistan, there is no evidence available so far that any official of the Islamic State movement has come to Pakistan to win over the militant Islamic groups, especially the Pakistani Taliban.
On the other hand unconfirmed reports show that some Muslims from Pakistan and India have gone to Iraq to join this movement. In the case of Pakistan there is no confirmed news of Pakistanis going to Iraq. May be some Islamic militants from other countries and some people from amongst Pakistani Taliban went there.
However, some Pakistani militants have started using the title of Islamic State Movement to draw attention. As the Pakistani Taliban movement is divided since the death of Hakimullah Mehsud and the rise of Mulla Fazlullah as its Chief in 2013, some of its leaders announced their loyalty to the Islamic State leader, Baghdadi.
Two weeks ago, five Pakistani Taliban leaders, including the former Taliban spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, announced that they were joining the Islamic Movement. One report indicated that some activists from Uzbekistan are striving to recruit Taliban activists to join the Islamic State Movement.
This announcement created another split among Pakistani Taliban. It is not clear if these Pakistani Taliban activists have any direct contact with the leadership based in Iraq. It is quite possible these Pakistani Taliban have just used the title in order to create their identity separate from the old Taliban leadership.
If some Pakistani with strong religious background are inspired by the Islamic State Movement, one should not be surprised because the Salafi and Wahhabi Islamic traditions exist in Pakistan. There are militant groups in Pakistan subscribing to the Salafi and Wahhabi Islamic traditions. Some people can be inspired enough to go to Iraq while others may try to create their own group under the title of Islamic State.
However, the split in Pakistani Taliban is a good news for Pakistan.

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