The Haqqani network — the most influential group among the Afghan militants — has warned the homegrown Pakistani Taliban against 'sabotaging' a fragile peace deal that it helped broker between the Sunnis and Shias in Kurram Agency.
Associates of both, the Haqqani network and the Hakimullah Mehsud-led Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said that tensions between their two groups had been mounting in recent months on various issues, especially on the Kurram peace accord.
"Things have now reached a very awkward point … Haqqani has said some very strong words to Hakimullah: 'Stop it yourself or my men will make you stop it'," said an affiliate of the Afghan commander based in North Waziristan.
Sources in the tribal areas said the rare warning by Haqqani to Hakimullah came after militants from the TTP ignored 'softer' requests earlier and kept attacking the Shias in Kurram in a direct threat to the peace deal.
The relationship between the two groups has been souring rapidly in recent months after Hakimullah Mehsud appeared in a video early this year showing the shooting of a retired Pakistani intelligence official thought to be the Afghan Taliban's godfather.
The TTP killed Ameer Sultan Tarar, alias Colonel Imam, ten months after he was kidnapped, ignoring a call from both the Afghan Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar and Sirajuddin Haqqani. "That is where the two got in trouble with each other," the source said.
An Associated Press (AP) report recently mentioned the friction between the two groups, saying it could provide an opportunity to the Pakistan military to exploit the falling unity if it wanted to launch a limited offensive in North Waziristan.
The US administration has, for some time now, been pushing Pakistan to send the military to the region bordering Afghanistan.
Pakistan's security establishment backed the warring sects of Kurram, to enter into a peace deal early this year after four years of bloodshed that saw 4,000 men dying on both sides.
The militant group led by veteran Afghan jihadi commander, Maulana Sirajuddin Haqqani, was also supporting the accord because the Kurram region provided swift access into areas in Afghanistan called the Khost Bowl.
When the deal was being discussed, there were reports that Pakistan's security establishment wanted a peaceful Kurram for the network to launch more lethal attacks inside Afghanistan, ahead of a proposed withdrawal of US-led international forces.
The Haqqani network, however, is now angry at the TTP because its affiliates are not honouring the deal, according to multiple sources in the region.
TTP commander from Kurram, Fazal Saeed, is now planning attacks on Shias after initially announcing support towards the deal, locals in the Upper Kurram said.
Another Mehsud-appointed commander for Orakzai, Maulvi Noor Jamal alias Mullah Toofan, is also one of the militant leaders behind the recent attacks on Shias who were travelling on a road that links Parachinar with Peshawar.
"All this has annoyed Haqqani," an associate of the Afghan commander, requesting anonymity, told The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2011.