A pamphlet distributed to media implies the militants are shifting focus due to rifts within the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
An influential militant faction of the Pakistani Taliban had said that it will abandon insurgent activity inside the country and redirect its energies toward Afghanistan.
The announcement by the Punjabi Taliban indicates further fragmentation in the umbrella Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP), which suffered a setback Thursday when a new bloc declared its split from the group’s official leadership.
“We will confine our practical jihadist role to Afghanistan in view of deteriorating situation in the region and internal situation of Pakistani jihadist movement,” Punjabi Taliban chief Asmatullah Muaweya said in a pamphlet faxed to the media, without clarifying further.
The faction is active in Punjab, Pakistan’s most populous province and the political power base of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) party.
Muaweya said the faction would operate in Afghanistan under the guidance of Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Afghan Taliban, while its activities in Pakistan will be confined to preaching Islam.
“The announcement is a major setback for the TTP as it shows fragmentation is continuing and the organization is fracturing,” said defense and security analyst Talat Masood. “The groups within TTP have not accepted Maulana Fazlullah, which has caused a serious split in the organization.”
Maulana Fazlullah was elected head of the TTP last November following the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in a U.S. drone strike. A new bloc, named the Jamaat ul Ahrar, announced its split from the group Thursday and named Omar Khalid Khorasani as its commander.