Hakeemullah Mehsud new chief: Faqir
Saturday, 22 Aug, 2009
KHAR: Militant commander Faqir Mohammad, who had proclaimed himself as successor to slain Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud only a couple of days ago, announced on Saturday that the much younger Hakeemullah Mehsud was the new leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.
Faqir’s statement to the media, however, compounded the confusion over Baitullah Mehsud’s successor amid reports of infighting within militant groups over leadership and TTP’s vast assets, including cash and weaponry.
‘I am stepping down as leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban in the larger interest of the movement,’ Faqir Mohammad, the TTP leader from Bajaur and Baitullah’s deputy, told reporters on phone from an undisclosed location.
‘There were a few problems on certain issues last week, but they have been resolved now,’ he acknowledged.’I am the most senior leader of the TTP after Baitullah and the sacrifices I rendered for it are no less. However, due to some unavoidable reasons, I am stepping down. There is no factionalism within the TTP now.’
Faqir Mohammad claimed that a 42-member shura of the Taliban met in Orakzai tribal region and it unanimously endorsed Hakeemullah as new leader of the Taliban in Pakistan.
The shura appointed Azam Tariq the new spokesman for the TTP to replace Maulvi Omar, who was arrested by security forces in Mohmand a few days ago.
Hakeemullah, who once served as a driver of the slain TTP leader, was considered very close to Baitullah Mehsud.
But intelligence services continue to believe that Hakeemullah was killed in a shootout following a brawl with another contender for the top slot at a meeting soon after Baitullah’s death.
‘He is dead and there is no question about it,’ a senior security official said.
However, the government has not been able to produce convincing evidence of the death of either Baitullah Mehsud or his heir-apparent Hakeemullah Mehsud.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik told reporters that the government was close to obtaining evidence to prove Baitullah was dead.
Faqir Mohammad, however, insisted the TTP leader was alive but had gone into seclusion due to health reasons.
Security officials believe that Faqir’s announcement about the new TTP chief indicated that the infighting over succession was not over. ‘The announcement is just a ruse to gain time to allow the TTP to regain control of the leadership,’ an official said.