Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, also known as 'Taliban Khan' has announced taking a peace caravan to Waziristan in late September. But Taliban factions there are divided over the rally. Tahir Ali reports.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan doubts that Imran is playing the tribal card just for political gains, while the Hafiz Gul Bahadar group, the leading militant faction in North Waziristan believes that Imran's Pakistan Tehrik Insaf's manifesto is reasonable, since it wants to make Pakistan an Islamic welfare state.
On July 14, during a rally at Peshawar, Imran had announced, "We will take representatives of human rights organisations and the media with us. We will march for peace; PTI wants to show that the government that innocent people are being killed in the area."
On this occasion, a charged-up crowd of around 20, 000 who started chanting "Amreeka ka jo yaar hai, ghaddar hai, ghaddar hai (Those who are friends with the US are traitors)."
This is the famous slogan chanted in almost all jihadist factions' gatherings. Imran has always been criticised for his pro-Taliban stance. His opposition leaders term him as radical and a man inclined towards Talibanisation.
Some of his rivals even call him 'Taliban Khan' as he always talks about negotiation with the militants. "I can talk to them (the Taliban) if the government and parties concerned sanction this and ask me to get involved. I am ready to talk to them in the country's best interest because this war is 'burying' Pakistan," says khan.
The announcement is being widely discussed in the tribal areas. When asked, Bahadar's spokesperson Ahmed Ullah Ahmadi termed the PTI manifesto as Islamic.
"Our leaders have reached the conclusion that the PTI wants to make Pakistan a welfare Islamic state, which we appreciate. Imran has always talked against the drone strikes in the tribal areas and has condemned (Pakistan's role in) the war on terror. We invite him to hold his rally in North Waziristan and we will provide logistics to him."
Bahadar is one of the leading 'good Taliban' factions in tribal areas. Good Taliban are those who only fight inside Afghanistan against the US-led NATO forces and do not attack Pakistani security forces. On the hand 'bad Taliban', such as the TTP think that there is no difference in US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan and Pakistani security forces as the second has supported war on terror which is 'war against Muslims."
The TTP does not hold the same view as Bahadur on Imran and his party. Last year, a TTP spokesperson, while speaking to BBC Urdu had said that Imran was a slave of the United States and Europe because he labels himself a liberal. The spokesperson had said that the word liberal defined someone who does not follow any.
"A liberal person does not believe in any religion, and also do not believe in Islam and Tawhid (Oneness of God)." He had said that Khan had termed some Pakistan leaders 'slaves of America' and said that he wanted to inform Khan that he was the "slave of those Americans who are no longer in this world."
TTP's central spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan told rediff.com, "Imran calls himself a liberal -- that means he is not a Muslim. So just his sympathies with the Muslims make no difference no one is interested."
"He (Imran) he has not mentioned whether he is going to north Waziristan or south Waziristan. If he announces the exact venue and date of the rally, then the TTP will issue its policy statement regarding his arrival -- the issue is already under consideration with our Shura," he added.
One of the reasons that the TTP does not like Imran is his rivalry with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan Fazal. A tussle is going on between the heads of JUIF and PTI leaderships -- both are running a hate campaign against each other at all fronts.
Mufti Waliur Rehman, the TTP head of South Waziristan, who was once a staunch activist of JUIF, still sympathises with Maulana Fazlur Rehman, and calls him as a leader of Islamic Ummah.
Imran in his political gathering
Imran's PTI says that the Maulana always supported the corrupt rulers of the country and has no principles of politics. In retort, the Maulana said, "Imran wants to impose the western culture upon us, he is fighting a war of American and western culture, it makes no difference to oppose US drone strikes, but in real he is promoting the western culture. He is the representative of western culture in the name of politics."
Religion has always played a great role in Pakistan politics, so when Maulana alleged that Imran Khan was an 'agent of the Jews' many Pakistanis changed their views about the PTI heads.
Earlier Imran was liked by most of the militant leaders liked Imran Khan, but after Maulana's hate campaign, they too started terming him as a man with a 'secular' ideology.
When it comes to rallies in Waziristan, Mufti Waliur Rehman would never allow the 'secular' Imran to visit the tribal area -- the TTP would allow PTI to hold peace caravan neither in South Waziristan nor in North Waziristan.
Imran's rally would be possible in North Waziristan if Bahadar takes TTP into confidence, something that is not possible in the near future.