Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Nanga Parbat Massacre | Who Is Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan?

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has claimed the responsibility of brutal killings at Diamir Base Camp of Nanga Parbat. 'By killing foreigners, we wanted to give a message to the world to play their role in bringing an end to the drone attacks,' TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan told AP on telephone from an unidentified location.

TTP is, at times, wrongfully considered as a faction of ‘Taliban’. It's important to note that, although, Taliban and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) share a name, the two groups are discrete entities with fewer similarities than differences. They operate independently with contradictory strategic goals. 'The fact that they have the same name causes all kinds of confusion,' Gilles Dorronsoro of Carnegie Endowment for International Peace told NYTimes in 2009.

Taliban vs TTP
As Wikipedia defines, 'the Taliban is an Islamic fundamentalist political movement in Afghanistan'. They operate against foreign and Afghan security forces but strictly oppose targeting another Muslim state or country. Before 9/11, Taliban hosted and supported several Al-Qaeda leaders but it’s believed that the groups are separated now. Currently Taliban's 'real purpose' is to fight the invading forces in Afghanistan and 'liberate' it from their occupation.

Contrarily Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan is an umbrella organization of various anti-Pakistan militant groups. Organization's strategic goals are purely based on enmity toward the Pakistani government and military. TTP can largely be held responsible for violence and security related issues in Pakistan. The group has been extensively involved in suicide attacks on military, police and innocent Pakistanis, heavily armed attacks on Pakistan's security forces, murdering of opponents without discrimination (like attack on young girl Malala Yousafzai), kidnapping for ransom, killing of high value targets and promoting sectarian violence.

Origination of the Groups
Taliban's origination can be linked back to 1980s insurgence by mujahidin fighters against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. After the fall of Soviet-backed regime, several Afghan political parties signed a power-sharing agreement, but the feeble government lasted only a few days and Afghanistan entered into civil war. Taliban’s militant activities started in 1994. They took control of Kabul in 1996 and ruled the country until American-led NATO invasion in 2001.

TTP’s roots can be traced back to 2002, when Pakistan Army started operation in FATA (Pakistani areas bordering Afghanistan) against foreign militants fleeing from Afghanistan into Pakistan due to NATO operation. Eventually in December 2007, several groups united under Baitullah Mehsud to form the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. It’s reported that the TTP killed around 200 tribal elders to strengthen their hold in the region. Several TTP leaders previously participated in Afghanistan war, along with Taliban.

TTP and Al Qaeda are in a close relationship, collaborating in financial matters and manufacturing of explosive devices. White-House counterterrorism advisor John Brennan once said on Fox News, "It [TTP] is a group that is closely allied with Al-Qaeda. They train together, they plan together, they plot together. They are almost indistinguishable."

Relationships between Taliban and TTP
Taliban strongly deny their association with TTP. "We don’t like to be involved with them (TTP), as we have rejected all affiliation with Pakistani Taliban fighters. We have sympathy for them as Muslims, but beside that, there is nothing else between us." There has been several attempts to bring the two organizations together, but Taliban often ask TTP to “to end suicide attacks, attacks against the Pakistani military, kidnappings for ransom, and the killing of innocent Pakistanis”. Apparently, none of the agreements between two groups ever worked.

TTP and Recent Attacks in Mountains
First incident of violence in the mountains took place in February 2012, when 18 Shia Muslim bus passengers were killed in Kohistan district. Jundallah, a group linked with Al-Qaeda and TTP, claimed the responsibility of attack. Despite being an unprivileged area, militancy related incidents in the Kohistan were almost non-existent, prior to aforementioned incident. Although, previously militants had a strong hold in adjacent valley of Swat.

In August 2012, more than 20 Shia passengers were killed in the valley leading to Babusar Pass. TTP claimed the responsibility of attack. The attackers were disguised in military uniforms.

Although massacre at Diamir BC is first instance of attack on foreign climbers, the incident can be closely linked with past events. TTP claims that attack was carried out by its newly formed team, Junud-ul-Hifsa.

Map showing location of three incidents (click for full image)

'The purpose of this attack was to give a message to the world that Pakistan is unsafe for travel,' said the interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, addressing the National Assembly session, which passed a resolution condemning the incident. 'The government will take all measures to ensure the safety of foreign tourists.'

Note: ‘Taliban’ are at times referred as Afghan Taliban, and TTP as Pakistani Taliban.

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