(Feb. 23 - LAHORE): Days after the Pakistan government and the Taliban inked a peace deal in Swat following a failed military operation in the picturesque valley, three major Taliban groups in Pakistan have formed a new alliance - Shura Ittihadul Mujahideen (Council for Unity of Holy Warriors) - in the twin agencies of North and South Waziristan after burying the hatchet, declaring the ameer of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar as their supreme leader and al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden as their role model.

The development came hardly a few days after the Pakistan government, unable to contain the threat from the Taliban militants in the Swat Valley despite an 18-month long military operation, signed a truce with the Taliban militants in Swat by pulling away its military and thus allowing Shariah to be implemented in the region.

According to an announcement made by the Pakistani Taliban, the new alliance would comprise the groups led by central chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Baitullah Mahsud and the two pro-government key commanders — Maulvi Nazir of South Waziristan Agency and Hafiz Gul Bahadur of North Waziristan tribal region. The three reportedly met at an undisclosed location and decided to resolve their differences to foil the external forces designs for dividing the multiple Taliban groups based in Pakistan.

"As Jews, Christians and Hindu infidels stand united against the Muslims particularly Mujahideen under the leadership of United States, Mujahideen have set aside internal differences and have joined hands, the Taliban announcement said, adding: "In order to make happy the Muslims in general and Mujahideen in particular, the three Taliban groups have formed a 13-member advisory council to run the affairs of the new alliance which would be led by the three Taliban commanders on rotation basis.

The status of the banned TTP, however, remained unclear, as Nazir and Gul Bahadur have not made any formal announcement to join the TTP or stay in their previous position. The conglomerate of different Taliban groups, active in the tribal belt and settled districts of NWFP, still exists and Baitullah continues to head it. At the time of launch of TTP in December 2004, the militants had made effective contacts with the two important commanders and Hafiz Gul Bahadur was even made deputy head of the TTP. But he later announced his dissociation with the conglomerate, as he was opposed to the ongoing militant activities inside Pakistan.

It was their opposition to the activities against security forces and government installations in Pakistan that won the name of pro-government commanders for Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur. In mid-2008, reports appeared in media that Maulvi Nazir and Gul Bahadur had made alliance against the TTP and they were in search of pro-government commanders in other parts of the tribal belt as well. However, the recent killing of Shah Sahib, another pro-government militant commander in the Mohmand tribal agency, at the hands of Commander Omar Khalid-led TTP operatives in July 2008, put at rest the reports, ending the efforts for expanding the purported alliance. The new militant alliance has announced that Mullah Omar of Afghanistan would be their supreme leader and Osama bin Laden as their role model.


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