Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) continues to remain active in its image projection and narrative building especially in areas with potential scope for recruitment of cadres in Pakistan, even though the organization and its leaders remain low profile and underground.
The TTP media released (Dec 8) a 52-minute video in Pashto (with Urdu subtitles), showing TTP Chief Noor Ali Mehsud visiting along with his associates various districts of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa including Malakand, Bajaur, Mardan, Peshawar, Khyber, Dara Adamkhel and Hazara.
The high quality videos prepared by the organisation are aimed at creating significant impact and are aimed at portraying the organisation’s ability to sustain itself in the face of various challenges faced. TTP’s association with the Taliban has been deep rooted and firm even though the Taliban might not highlight this aspect so blatantly. However, at the functional level, TTP’s relationship with Taliban remains strong, and the TTP has continued to highlight this issue without any ambiguity.
In his recent speeches, Noor Ali has been praising the Taliban regularly and has specified that his group is a branch of the ‘Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’ (Taliban). He further said that the TTP would take all measures which may result in strengthening of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Noor Ali specified that the ultimate aim of TTP was to establish Sharia in Pakistan and the group would fight until Pakistan comes under Sharia.
The TTP has also come up with their stand on the issue raised by Prime Minister Imran Khan recently wherein he had mentioned that Pakistan faces onslaught from the TTP based out of Afghanistan. However, in order to prevent any misunderstanding with the Taliban and to reiterate its position on the matter, TTP leader Noor Ali stated recently that the group is not interested in conducting activities outside Pakistan, thus emphasizing the fact that they have been attacking targets in Pakistan from within Pakistan. Calling for unity among the fighters/groups, the TTP Chief claimed that the group got weakened in the past due to intra-factional disputes.
The TTP also does not lose the opportunity to remind the Taliban of the close cooperation between the two. Projections are often made by the TTP on their contribution to the Taliban’s activities in Afghanistan. In this connection, lauding the contribution of the TTP in the conflict in Afghanistan, Noor Ali mentioned that over 10,000 fighters from Swat Valley and around 18,000 people of Mehsud tribe including over 1,000 suicide bombers went to Afghanistan to help the Taliban. Interestingly, in a video he showcased several vehicles belonging to the former Afghan Army and Police Forces, transporting TTP members in a convoy.
TTP’s relations with the Taliban remain firm and there is discrete back channels functioning between the two sides. The TTP Chief has already renewed (Aug 18) his allegiance to the Taliban Chief Haibatullah Akhundzada following the Taliban’s take-over of Afghanistan. Pertinently, the Taliban has never rejected Noor Ali’s oath of allegiance.
Pakistan is increasingly realizing that given the close association between the Pakistani establishment and the Taliban, there could yet be challenges for Pakistan to control or calibrate the activities of the TTP. Elements within the Taliban, buoyed by the Taliban’s victory against the US and earlier the Soviet Union, might not entirely want to remain subjugated to Pakistan and would instead prefer an anti-Pakistani narrative being built consistently.