Dead or Alive: Hakimullah Mehsud gives a presscon
There’s been a lot of speculation in the foreign press for the past couple of days about Hakimullah Mehsud, the new chief of the TTP. US intelligence sources were reporting that same old news item, that Hakimullah had been killed in an internal power struggle battle, reports of which surfaced after Baitullah was killed in a drone strike. These were more or less confirmed by Pakistani intelligence, including by Interior Minister Rehman Malik in a statement to television channels.
But the new reports, while offering little new information, were either a sign to bolster up confidence in the claim being made that the TTP was in disarray. Rahimullah Yusufzai reported in The News yesterday that the Pakistani government didn’t believe that Hakimullah made those calls after the initial reports of his death to prove that he was alive. He also provided an interesting insight:
Fond of publicity and known to enjoy media attention, Hakimullah wasn’t expected to avoid reporters for long and shy away from making a videotape to declare that he was alive. But he hasn’t done that even after weeks and further delay in providing evidence of his life would mean that he is dead or following a smart plan for keeping everybody guessing.
The situation regarding Hakimullah’s fate could become clear in a day or two as the TTP had plans to invite journalists to its South Waziristan stronghold to meet its commanders. The last time Hakimullah met members of the media was in Orakzai Agency, but that was when Baitullah was alive and the former was commander for the tribal agencies of Orakzai, Khyber and Kurram.
Hakimullah did exactly that yesterday by calling a number of reporters to meet with him at an undisclosed location in South Waziristan. He reiterated that the TTP was united, that there was no conflict between him and Wali-ur-Rehman (who he allegedly had the fight with over leadership of the TTP). Footage of the interview shows him to be in good health, and he even looks like he’s gained weight over time. Wali-ur-Rehman and Qari Hussain were also at the meeting, and the interviews were only given on the condition that they would be published on Monday…
…And ironically, Monday afternoon would see the offices of the UN World Food Programme being attacked by a suicide bomber dressed in a Frontier Corps uniform. The attack killed four Pakistanis and one Iraqi national, and UN offices in Islamabad and Rawalpindi have been closed.
I can’t say whether this was a strategic move on Hakimullah’s part to have his reappearance being linked to the attack, or whether this was a pre-scheduled one that had taken place regardless. In any case, Islamabad – already a high security zone that visitors say resembles a garrison – will probably be on edge right now.
Our Dead or Alive series continues: you can read the rest of our posts here, including the one where I found out about Hakimullah’s death (?) while writing a blogpost about Baitullah Mehsud’s death and what it meant.