Pakistan’s newest soap opera: ‘Dead or Alive’.
What a strange few days this has been for Pakistan – days that have seen Pakistan develop into a brand-new soap opera called ‘Dead or Alive’. Over the past few days we have seen numerous reports confirming and denying that the commander of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud, is dead. Its given everyone massive headaches and paranoia, to the point where we’d probably rather believe Pakistan’s spinoff of The Onion, Maila Times, instead.
Late Saturday evening, while I was typing out the below blogpost, news channels in Pakistan ran breaking news updates that a fight had broken out in the Taliban shoora meeting. Reports, including one by the state-run Pakistan Television, said that a gunbattle had taken place during the meeting between the supporters of Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman, both contenders for Mehsud’s spot.
Over 12 hours later, this still seems to be murky. There are various reports that both Hakimullah and Wali were killed, while Rehman Malik has said that he has heard one of them has died while other sources cite that Qari Hussain, responsible for orchestrating several suicide attacks, has also been injured in the fighting.
While the battle for power would have been bloody (a contender to Mehsud, Qari Zainuddin, was killed this June) there are so many divides in the TTP camp that exploiting them further would help a collapse. However, as Zainuddin’s death proves, this doesn’t always work.
So are they all dead or not? Pakistan awaits answers though don’t keep your fingers crossed to see their dead bodies being paraded on television since there is no official presence in Southern Waziristan. But does Mehsud’s death (?) mean that the Army will be launching an operation in southern Waziristan? I debated this yesterday before the Hakimuddin-Wali fight reports emerged.
Jason Burke in the Observer quoted Major-General ‘Atta’ Abbas* as saying:
“We are still waiting for full confirmation (of Mehsud’s death), and we will be reassessing the options for the resolution of the south Waziristan militant problem”.
Meanwhile, this soap opera-like saga has befuddled everyone. I’m quite cynical since I grew up watching soap operas and have seen all sorts of characters (albeit fictional) making a return back from the dead. It would be quite nice if someone could just issue a final confirmation or denial, for once and for all.
*I believe the Observer has made an error since the official spokesperson for the Army is Major-General Athar Abbas. I’ve emailed their desk but have received no answer as yet.