PTI activists search trucks for Nato supplies

PESHAWAR: Club-wielding activists from Imran Khan’s political party forcibly searched trucks for Nato supplies in northwest Pakistan on Sunday in protest at deadly US drone strikes.

Around 100 workers from the former cricket star’s Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf (PTI) party set up checkpoints in the northwestern city of Peshawar on a main road leading to Afghanistan.

They stopped trucks and hauled drivers from their cabs to check their paperwork, following a call by Khan at a rally on Saturday to block supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan in protest at the drone attacks.

The activists, carrying the PTI’s green and red flag, broke open truck containers to check their contents, an DSS reporter at the scene said.

The PTI heads the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital. But authority for the highways lies with the federal government, which has so far made no move to block Nato supplies.

Muhammad Faisal, a senior police official, said the PTI activists’ actions were illegal but he was powerless to act.

“The protesters are doing unlawful acts by checking documents and screening goods, they don’t have authority,” he told DSS.

“But we can’t take action against them because we have no instructions from the government. If the government orders us, we will stop this illegal activity.”

PTI activist Asghar Khalil told DSS they were heeding their leader’s call to action and would not stop until Washington promised to end drone strikes.

Khan has long opposed the US campaign of drone attacks targeting Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

He has intensified his rhetoric since a US drone strike killed Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud on November 1.

Khan says that attack was a deliberate attempt by Washington to sabotage efforts towards peace talks with the militants, who have killed thousands in a six-year campaign of violence.

“They are doing unlawful acts. They broke the sealing of my container and forcibly examined the goods,” Faiz Muhammad Khan, a truck driver transporting sanitary items to Afghanistan, told DSS.

“If they want to block supplies for Nato forces, they should stop it in Karachi or at the border.”

Later in the day, one of Khan’s allies, the right wing Jamaat-i-Islami party, led thousands in a protest against drone attacks and the Nato supply line in the southern port city of Karachi, where the shipments originate.

Pakistan is a key transit route for the US-led mission in landlocked Afghanistan, particularly as Nato forces prepare to withdraw by the end of next year.

Nato supplies were suspended on Saturday because of a major PTI rally, which was held on the route used by the trucks.

The drone strikes are deeply unpopular in Pakistan. Islamabad publicly condemns them as counter-productive and a violation of sovereignty, although previous governments have given their tacit support to them.

The US regards the strikes as a highly effective tool in the fight against militancy.

LOST IDENTITY: NEW TALIBAN CHIEF AND FUTURE OF TTP

At last Tehrik e Taliban has confirmed about death of Baitullah Mahsud and about their new Amir. TTP announcement has also cleared the fog which was surrounding TTP and creating confusions and conspiracy theories about Taliban in fighting’s. But again I am confused that Instead of Omer Khattab, the newly appointed media face of TTP, Wali Ur Rehman and Hakeem Ullah Mahsud broke the news of the power sharing and selection of New Amir of TTP and Mahsuds.According to AP, Hakeem Ullah Mahsud and Wali Ur Rehman both Phoned AP Jointly and Announced that Baitullah Mahsud has died few days ago. He got Injured on 5th august drone attack and expired after 18 days due to injuries. They also announced that TTP Shura has Chosen Hakeem Ullah Mahsud as New Amir of Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan and Wali Ur Rehman as Amir of Mahsud Tribe and SWA agency.According to very reliable sources, there was a dispute amongst Taliban over the succession of Baitullah Mahsud. But due to intervention of elders and Al Qaied it never reached the point of armed confrontation between two key contenders. Taliban elders wanted to see Wali Ur Rehman as new Amir due to his education and his cool minded and Balance approach but , Hakeem Ullah who is Nephew of Baitullah Mahsud and Cousin of Qari Hussein( Some Sources believe QARI HUSSAIN IS IMPORTANT REPRESENTATIVE OF AL QAEDA IN TRIBAL AREAS) was supported by Al Qaeda and in the end Al Qaeda’s support played decisive role and Hakeem Ullah was chosen and Wali Ur Rehman forced to accept Leader Ship of Mahsuds and SWA. According to Reports Al Qaeda’s influence on selection of new Amir has also taken a toll. Two important allies of TTP in South Waziristan Agency have switched sides and have joined anti Hakeem Ullah side. These include Azmatullah Shaheen group and Awal Khan Bhitani group. Both Azmatullah Shaheen and Awal Khan were right hand people of Baitullah Mahsud but the way during the selection of New Amir they were treated they separated them selves from TTP and joined forces of Their tribesman Turkistan Bhitani.Hakeem ullah Mahsud is Nephew of Baitullah Mahsud and cousin of Qari Hussein (father of Suicide Bombings in Pakistan). His original Name is Jamsheid Mahsud who opted Zulifqar Mahsud as his name when he was made Spokes man of Taliban and latter opted Hakeem ullah Mahsud when became operational in charge of TTP in Khyber, Aurak zai and Kurram agencies Hakeem ullah is in early 30’ and is seen as emotional commander who some times can act very cheap. He is seen as anti Shia sectarian minded commander which may be due to him under the influence of Qari Hussein. According to express news, Hakeem Ullah Mahsud has not much into religion. He is more criminal then Taliban. Al Qaeda’s support to him is largely due to his hate for Shia’s and his ability to plan and exhibit military genius in operations. Hakeem ullah’s support Base is not in SWA, His actual support comes from Aurak Zai agency and Kurram. Hakeem ullah is a cruel ruthless man and it’s expected that his policy will focus on anti Shia activities and crimes like robbery, drug trafficking etc. Sectarian violence will increase in Pakistan, especially in NWFP.Hakeem Ullah has wowed to take revenge of Drone Attack which killed his uncle Baitullah Mahsud. He may create some troubles for Americans . I dont think he will launch operations in Afghanistan area. I think Al Qaeda don’t have interest in Afghanistan any more and is trying to concentrate in Pakistan that is why Hakeem ullah’s concentration( he has full support of AL Qaeda) will be to fight Pakistani government and forces. I also believe that his emotionalism and cheapness of Character will in coming month result his fall and he will not survive more then 6 months to year. On other Hand Wali Ur Rehman who has support in Taliban Circle and is known to be as educated and cool minded person have become Amir of Mahsuds and SWA. Wali Ur Rehman will be commanding Mahsuds who are real power of TTP. I believe in coming days Hakeem Ullah and Wali Ur Rehman are bound to fight because ultimately Hakeem ullah’s Criminal aptitude will damage the movement resulting in end of Support in tribal areas and ideological Taliban revolting against him and coming under Wali Ur Rehman camp.Baitullah Mahsud is dead which means TTP’s center of Gravity has broken. Al though TTP has not disintegrated but now it has many Commanders who think they are better then Amir. It will be an impossible challenge for Hakeem Ullah to hold united TTP from Malakand to SWA. I think TTP has become hollow and its matter of Time it will completely fall.

Hakimullah Mehsud

Hakimullah Mehsud, the chief of the banned Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was killed in a US drone strike in the North Waziristan tribal region on Friday evening.

Mehsud first came into public prominence after orchestrating audacious raids against the Pakistan Army.

According to reports, Hakimullah is a nom de guerre he later adopted (his birth name is Zulfiqar). He was initially a bodyguard to Baitullah Mehsud, his predecessor and founder of the umbrella group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and later became his close aide.

He was also appointed as a spokesman for Baitullah and succeeded him as leader after the latter was killed in a drone strike in August 2009.

In his early life, Hakimullah received basic education at a madrassah in a village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s Hangu district.

It was only in 2007 after the capture of 300 Pakistani soldiers that his name and prestige among the Taliban rose dramatically.

He was made the Taliban commander in Khyber, Orakzai and Kurram and was regarded as the mastermind behind the attacks on Nato supply lines in the tribal region.

In 2010, Hakimullah appeared alongside a Jordanian militant in a farewell video in which the latter claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Afghanistan in which seven CIA agents were killed.

Under Hakimullah, the Taliban formed complex alliances with other extremist militant groups spread across Pakistan.

Regarded by several Taliban militants as being their best leader to date, Hakimullah was known to be a fierce and ruthless leader who inspired respect amongst other militants.

His unknown whereabouts and numerous reports of his killing only added to his prestige among Taliban militants.

In 2009, he was reported to have been killed after a drone strike – one of at least two reports that later turned out to be false.

The United States had also offered a reward of $5 million for information leading to the capture of Hakimullah Mehsud.

How America got Taliban target number one

Pakistani Taliban commander Hakimullah Mehsud

Hakimullah Mehsud rarely spent more than six hours in one spot – but that was enough time for a US drone to strike

For years, Hakimullah Mehsud, the long-haired leader of the Pakistan Taliban, took all possible precautions. He seldom spent more than more than six hours in any one spot, shuttling between a string of safe houses through Pakistan’s lawless tribal region.

But as negotiations with the Pakistan government loomed, it seems one of the world’s most wanted men made a fatal mistake – he relaxed, assuming that upcoming peace talks meant he was safe, and lingered at his new house.

It was just long enough for one of the US drones that constantly linger above the tribal region’s mountainous skyline to find its mark -firing two missiles into Mehsud’s 4×4 as it pulled inside the gate of his home on Friday.

“He was at a meeting at a nearby mosque to discuss the negotiations,” a Pakistani security source briefed on the killing told The Sunday Telegraph. “He was killed as he got back to his house, probably just as he was getting out of his car, inside the walls of the compound.”

So came the death of one of the most capable of the Taliban’s commanders, a man who, in Washington’s eyes at least, had earned every cent of the $5 million price tag put on his head. For not only had Mehsud waged terror against his fellow Pakistanis, he had also helped to mastermind the single deadliest strike against the CIA in the last quarter century, when a suicide bomber posing as an al-Qaeda informant blew himself up at a base in Afghanistan in 2009, killing seven CIA agents.

But while it may have proved a moment of quiet triumph for the CIA’s controversial drone programme, reaction this weekend was rather different in Pakistan.

Yesterday evening, the government summoned the US ambassador, Richard Olson, to lodge a formal protest over the attack, which it said it would wreck peace talks initiated by Pakistan’s new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who was elected back in May.

A statement from the Foreign Office said Friday’s strike was “counter-productive to Pakistan’s efforts to bring peace and stability to Pakistan and the region.”

Mr Olson is not the first US envoy to incur the displeasure of his hosts in Islamabad. His predecessor, Cameron Munter, resigned early after having to deal with the diplomatic fallout from other drone strikes, and also the covert raid to kill Osama bin Laden on Pakistani soil in 2011.

But the official rhetoric did not stop speculation that the Pakistani government may have given the operation its blessing all along, and possibly even fed the US the intelligence as to Mehsud’s whereabouts.

Mehsud died less than a month after giving an interview to the BBC in which he had said he was prepared to enter peace talks with Pakistan if the US stopped its use of drones.

But many analysts saw his overtures as little more than posturing, describing him as an implacable hardliner who was a hindrance rather than a help to any future negotiations. Pakistan and the US may have had good reason for wanting him dead.

Either way, the killing of such an important character in Pakistan’ terrorist milieu will create a new period of uncertainty. Police yesterday tightened security in cities across the country, amid fears of reprisal attacks as the ruling council of the Pakistan Taliban met to appoint Mr Mehsud’s replacement.

Meanwhile, details pieced together from a range of militant sources and locals in Danda Darpa Khel, the village where Mehsud was living, gave an insight into how he had met his end. A cluster of mud-brick homes, the village lies just outside the town of Miranshah, the capital of the North Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

While the Pakistani military has a base and airstrip within light machine gun range of the village, effectively its writ does not run in the area.

Visitors said Mehsud’s house was built in a simple style, the sort of thing befitting an ascetic Islamist leader. It has four rooms and a spacious guest wing, suitable for entertaining visiting commanders or mullahs.

“He moved every night,” said a businessman from the region, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of Taliban retribution. “But at the same time, everyone knew which one was his house. It’s not the sort of place where that sort of thing stays secret.”

The village and the surrounding area are controlled by the Pakistani Taliban, who run it as part of their own mini-state, where arms are freely traded, and sharia law is dispatched in brutal fashion. Western hostages are occasionally kept in safe houses here, beyond the reach of the authorities. The Pakistani government does, however, maintain a spy network in the region, and it is thought that one of their agents may have provided the vital tip as to Mehsud’s whereabouts. While it could have come from a CIA asset, the agency’s networks have been badly depleted in recent years as the Pakistani government becomes increasingly uneasy about being seen to co-operate with the US.

Whoever provided the information, it would then most likely have been passed to an operations room thousands of miles away in the western US state of Nevada, from where America carries out its drone strikes by remote control.

In an air conditioned room filled with banks of computer screens, a US operative would have stared at satellite images of Waziristan province relayed by an armed MQ-1 Predator drone flying at up to 25,000 feet.

The Predator possesses an all-seeing sensor ball composed of three cameras with laser targetting and radar sensors. A continuous flow of images is fed through a satellite link to the team running the operation to confirm the target is in sight.

As Mehsud’s convoy pulled away from a mosque where the Taliban leader’s location had been confirmed, the images on the screen would have been so sharp that the operator could had read the cars’ number plates. While the Predator circled at lowest speed – around 80mph – the order “missile off the rail” would have been given, and two Hellfire missiles despatched.

Witnesses said that a total of nine people, including two bodyguards were killed in the attack, which took place just after 6pm on Friday.

Wellwishers visited the walled compound yesterday to pay their respects at was left of Mehsud’s home, amid reports that Hakimullah’s body had been buried at a secret funeral under cover of darkness to avoid attracting more drones.

Locals in nearby Miranshah also marked the death yesterday, blasting their guns in the air as other drones, including a larger than usual one, circled.

“We thought it was a C-130 aircraft but it was a special spy plane, bigger in size,” resident Farhad Khan said. “The militants fired from their anti-aircraft guns to hit it but couldn’t.”

Hakimullah led a campaign to bring down the Pakistani state, which he wanted to replace with an Islamic emirate. He gained a reputation as a merciless leader, dispatching wave after wave of young suicide attackers.

The first sign that his four-year reign as one of Pakistan’s most wanted men was unravelling came last month. The man they call his “secretary” Latif Mehsud was seized by American forces in Afghanistan.

It was his job to shuttle messages and elders to his boss, a sensitive position that gave him knowledge of safe houses, contacts and counter-drone measures.

He had been in close contact with Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security, the country’s intelligence agency, according to President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman, for “a long period of time”.

Whether he supplied the crucial evidence or whether it was supplied by local sources may never be known.

Either way, though, Mehsud’s death is vindication for the ruthless cost-benefit analysis of the CIA, which measures success in lives taken versus lives saved. It has now claimed the lives of many of Pakistan’s most wanted terrorists, despite “collateral” loss of many civilians amid whom the militants hide. Only last month, a Pakistani family gave evidence to a US Congressional hearing about how they had lost their grandmother to such a strike

“This is a serious blow to the Pakistani Taliban which may spark internal fractures in the movement,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and adviser to the Obama administration who helped develop the drone campaign.

Pakistan has always condemned the strikes, complaining that they are a breach of sovereignty. However, a series of leaks suggest the government and military has long given consent to the missile attacks and have even asked for specific targets to be hit.

The latest strike may well have even been part of an Islamabad-approved strategy to bomb the Pakistani Taliban to the negotiating table, according to Shaukat Qadir, a retired army officer who now works as a military analyst.

“Hakimullah Mehsud was an impediment to peace talks,” said Shaukat Qadir a retired military officer who now works as an analyst. “Whatever the government says now, this will help push the Pakistan Taliban towards negotiations.”

That, though, will depend on who emerges as the new leader, and whether he can hold together the disparate splinters and factions that make up the Pakistani Taliban while making the pragmatic case for peace.

Senior Taliban figures on its shura, or advisory council, met yesterday to pick a new leader. Militant sources told local media they changed location frequently to thwart the chances of another drone strike and broke up before making a final decision.

The frontrunners include Maulana Fazlullah, known as Mullah Radio, chief of the Swat Taliban. It was his men who claimed responsibility for the failed attempt to assassinate Malala Yousafzai, the 15-year-old girl shot in the head as she travelled home from school last year.

Another possibility is Sheheryar Mehsud, from the same South Waziristan clan as Baitullah Mehsud, Hakimullah’s predecessor.

Or it might be Khan Said – better known as Sajna or “uncle” – an illiterate commander who was responsible for recruiting and training suicide bombers.

Despite those grisly tactics, his position as an ally of commanders who focused attacks on Afghanistan rather than Pakistan, and maintained strong ties with the Pakistani state, suggest he may be more open to finding a pragmatic accommodation with Islamabad.

That, however, depends on whether Islamabad still wants to talk – or whether it thinks it could now push its advantage with a military offensive in North Waziristan.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has left no doubt that in the short term, there will be more violence. “Every drop of Hakimullah’s blood will turn into a suicide bomber,” said Azam Tariq, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman. “America and their friends shouldn’t be happy because we will take revenge for our martyr’s blood.”