Pakistani Taliban still deliberating on a new chief after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in drone strike last week.
The Pakistani Taliban on Sunday announced that Asmatullah Shaheen had been appointed their caretaker chief until a replacement for the deceased Hakimullah Mehsud can be chosen.
Mehsud was killed, along with four other militants, in a U.S. drone strike that targeted his house in North Waziristan on Friday.
Azam Tariq, former TTP spokesman, told Newsweek: “Shaheen will look after the day to day affairs of the Taliban until a unanimous decision has been taken on the new TTP chief.”
According to Tariq, a meeting of the TTP central shura to choose a new leader is still underway. “It is possible that the shura will nominate a new chief within a few days.”
Mehsud’s killing sparked a furious reaction from the Pakistani government, which accused Washington of sabotaging fledgling efforts toward peace negotiations with the Taliban. Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar told a press conference that a group of clerics had been ready to go and meet the TTP to initiate talks, which have been backed by all major political parties, when the drone struck.
Shahidullah Shahid, current TTP spokesman, has accused the government of kowtowing to Washington and cutting a deal to “sell” the militants. “Nobody in history has ever negotiated with slaves,” he said. “We were waiting for a meeting, while the Pakistan Army and government was sitting with the U.S. finalizing deals to sell us,” he added.
However, Shahid stopped short of vowing revenge for Mehsud’s killing. “Time will tell whether we take revenge of his martyrdom or not,” he told AFP.
Asmatullah Shaheen, otherwise known as Asmatullah Bhittani, has openly recruited Pakistanis to wage jihad against the U.S. in Afghanistan in the past. He is among the Pakistan government’s “most wanted” Taliban commanders and staged an assault on a Frontier Corps outpost at Tank in 2011.