Impact of Peshawar Police Line blast and fissures within TTP

Peshawar Police Line blast may result in a split in TTP. On January 30, 2023, an explosion occurred in the mosque of Police Line in which more than 100 people died, and many were injured. Police said it was a suicide attack. It was the most lethal attack ever against Pakistani security forces.

Mukarram Mohmand, a.k.a. Umar Khorasani, a member of central Shura of TTP and Sarbakaf Muhmand, the shadow governor of TTP’s purported Zhob Wilayat (Balochistan’s Pashtun areas), claimed responsibility for the attack and declared that it was a ‘revenge attack’ against the killing of Umar Khalid Khorasani who was killed in Barmal area of Paktika province of Afghanistan on August 7, 2022, in an IED attack. Abdul Wali, a.k.a. Umar Khalid Khorasani, hailed from the Mohmand tribal district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He parted ways from TTP in August 2014 and named his faction Jamat-ul-Ahrar. Later, it proved that JuA was more potent than TTP as its network was spread across the country and conducted more lethal and high-profile attacks than the main TTP. In July 2017, the United Nations included JuA in the proscribed organizations. Abdul Wali erected a proxy named Hizbul Ahrar to evade sanctions. His close associate Mukarram Mohmand was appointed as head of Hibzul Ahrar. Abdul Wali was controlling the proxy through Mukarram. In 2020, Jamat-ul-Ahrar merged back into TTP, and Abdul Wali became a member of Shura. After his assassination in August 2022, Mukarram Muhmand (Umar Khorasani) was given a seat in the Shura. It is very interesting that the same Mukarram Mohmand had accused JuA of carrying out ‘un-Islamic’ attacks at public places, which was presented as a major reason to ‘part ways’ from JuA. That was all deception, as now he is declared the successor of Abdul Wali.

After the mysterious assassination of Abdul Wali in Paktika, Afghanistan, Mufti Noor Wali announced that revenge would remain suspended unless the killers were not ascertained. However, the followers of Abdul Wali were not happy with the decision. They believe the attack was carried out in connivance with Pakistani intelligence agencies. During the reshuffling of TTP, Abdul Wali’s loyalists also gained vital positions. They were preparing for revenge attacks, and as soon as TTP called off the ceasefire, a suicide attack was carried out in Quetta against FC soldiers. Per the tweet of Mukarram Mohmand, the Peshawar blast was the fourth suicide attack as part of a series of revenge attacks by the group.

TTP’s official spokesman Muhammad Khorasani (a pseudo name), denied not only the involvement of the group but also released screenshots of the code of conduct (لائحہ) of TTP, which says that carrying out attacks against mosques is forbidden and those involved will be punished. TTP also tried to give the impression that DAESH carried out the attack; however, no verified account of DAESH claimed responsibility for the attack.

The way TTP’s central leadership distanced itself from the Peshawar attack is a shred of clear evidence that the top leadership lacks control over operations. Within TTP, there are many factions. Another powerful faction is TTP Darra Adam Khel which was established by late commander Tariq Afridi a.k.a. Tariq Geedar. That faction is also called the Tariq Geedar Group (TGG). In 2012, when Tariq Afridi was killed, his followers blamed Abdul Wali, a.k.a. Umar Khalid Khorasani, for his death. When Abdul Wali was killed in August 2022, loyalists of TGG indirectly celebrated his death. TGG will pressure Mufti Noor Wali to act against those involved in the Peshawar attack.

Mufti Noor Wali also faces threats to his life from within the organization. Therefore, he is not meeting people except very few selected top commanders, and that too after thorough scrutiny. The mistrust within different factions is growing day by day.

According to sources, the differences within Afghan Taliban also reflect within the ranks of TTP. Traditionally TTP was closer to Haqqani, but now the Kadahari faction of the Afghan Taliban is more supportive, while Haqqanis want TTP to mend ways and strike a deal with Pakistan. With the backing of Taliban commanders from Kandahar, some factions of the Taliban are not listening to Mufit Noor Wali.

In the case of defection from the main TTP, the loyalists of Abdul Wali will more likely build an alliance with the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group, which is emerging as a strong player in the militancy theater. It will be a more lethal combination while Mufti Noor Wali will be marginalized, as was Mullah Fazlullah in 2014.

APS Peshawar attack had turned out to be ‘shot in the foot’ by TTP. It took the group years to rebuild its image in certain parts of the country. However, the Peshawar Police Line attack will once again damage its reputation badly not only within the Pashtun belt but also in Afghanistan. Afghan Taliban will come under international pressure, too, to act against the perpetrators. Taliban government will have to show at least some level of responsible behavior to the world, act against TTP, and bar it from any further attack on Pakistan.

By: Abdullah Khan

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