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Old Monday, March 01, 2010
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Post Pakistan wipes out half of Quetta Shura By Amir Mir

LAHORE: In a major policy shift, the powerful Pakistani establishment seems to have decided to abandon the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan by agreeing to launch a massive crackdown against their command-and-control structure, which has already led to the arrest of nine of the 18 key members of the Mullah Omar-led Quetta Shura from different parts of Pakistan, and that too within a short span of two months.

According to well-informed diplomatic circles in Islamabad, the decision-makers in the powerful Pakistani establishment seem to have concluded in view of the ever-growing nexus between the Pakistani and the Afghan Taliban that they are now one and the same and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and the Quetta Shura Taliban (QST) could no more be treated as two separate Jihadi entities. Therefore, the establishment is believed to have revised its previous strategic assessment of the two Taliban groups, which have a common mentor (Mullah Mohammad Omar) and decided to proceed against the Afghan Taliban as well, considering them a greater threat for Pakistan now than in the past.

Diplomatic circles pointed out that the arrest of the Afghan Taliban leaders have come at a crucial juncture when the US-led allied forces are busy in launching a massive military offensive against the Afghan Taliban forces in the Marjah town of Afghanistanís southern Helmand province, after President Obamaís new-year public declaration to kill or capture the top fugitive leaders of the Taliban and the al-Qaeda, both inAfghanistan and Pakistan. Since the beginning of February 2010, the Pakistan authorities have captured seven senior members of the Taliban Shura, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy of Mullah Omar, and four Taliban shadow governors of Afghan provinces. These high-profile arrests, combined with the ongoing US-led military offensive in Helmand and the unending spate of drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas, have adversely dented the command and control structure of the Taliban, thereby affecting its military might in Afghanistan.

However, well informed diplomatic circles in Islamabad maintain that American pressure alone could not have made Pakistan to act against the Taliban network. They claim the influence of the Saudi royal family, coupled with the US pressure, eventually compelled the Pakistani intelligence establishment to finally abandon the Afghan Taliban, who were earlier being protected as a strategic asset to be used in Pakistanís favour after the exit of the allied forces from Afghanistan. These circles further claim that the Pakistan intelligence establishment was in fact persuaded to cooperate with the Americans by Prince Muqrin bin Abdulaziz, the younger half-brother of King Abdullah. Being the chief of General Intelligence Presidency, which is the Saudi Arabian intelligence service, Muqrin reportedly conducted shuttle diplomacy between the key civil and military leadership of the two important Muslim countries, finally making Pakistan to proceed against the leadership of the Afghan Taliban.

Subsequently, in a swoop carried out against the well-entrenched network of the Afghan Taliban, the Pakistani authorities first arrested Mullah Mir Muhammad, the shadow governor of Baghlan province, who was detained from Faisalabad on January 26, 2010. The next arrest was that of Mullah Abdul Salam, the shadow governor of Kunduz province, who was nabbed a few days later. The third arrest was that of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was nabbed on February 11, 2010 from the premises of a Sunni-Deobandi-run religious seminary in Karachi. The seminary, Khudamul Quran, is located 10 to 25 kms from the Toll Plaza on the Super Highway in the jurisdiction of the Lonikot police station in Hyderabad district.

The significance of Mullah Baradarís arrest can well be gauged from the fact that he is credited by the Americans for rebuilding the Afghan Taliban into an effective fighting force besides coordinating its military operations against the US-led allied forces in Afghanistan. There are reports that Baradar represented Mullah Omar in all the peace talks with the United States, which were in fact mediated by Saudi Arabia, in the past two years. In a related development, the US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley stated on February 27: ďPakistanís decisive action against the Afghan Taliban is already showing results and such measures would encourage the extremist militia to seek reconciliation. This is expressly the kind of decisive action that Washington has sought in its strategy from the outset, and that has been the basis upon which the United States has worked with Afghanistan and Pakistan.Ē

Almost a week after Mullah Baradarís arrest, the Pakistani authorities arrested Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the shadow governor of Nangarhar province on February 20 in Nowshehra. Three other arrested members of Quetta Shura include Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir, who used to co-supervise the military affairs of the militia, Mullah Muhammad Hassan, a former foreign minister in the Taliban regime, Mullah Abdul Rauf, the former chief operational commander of the Taliban in northeastern Afghanistan, Mullah Ahmad Jan Akhundzada, the former governor of Zabul province and Mullah Muhammad Younis, an explosives expert who had served as a police chief in Kabul during the Taliban rule. However, the Pakistani authorities have so far only confirmed the arrest of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, since he was nabbed during a joint operation carried out by the ISI and the CIA.

The remaining nine members of the Quetta Shura who are still at large are believed to be Mullah Hassan Rehmani, the former governor of Kandahar province in Taliban regime; Hafiz Abdul Majeed, the former chief of the Afghan Intelligence and the surge commander of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan; Amir Khan Muttaqi, a former minister in Taliban regime; Agha Jan Mutasim, the Talibanís head of political affairs; Mullah Abdul Jalil, the head of the Talibanís shadowy interior ministry, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of Maulvi Jalaluddin Haqqani and the commander of the Haqqani militant network; Mullah Abdul Latif Mansoor, the commander of the Mansoor network in Paktika and Khost; Mullah Abdur Razaq Akhundzada, the former corps commander for northern Afghanistan; and Abdullah Mutmain, a former minister during the Taliban regime who currently looks after the financial affairs of the extremist militia.
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