Asmatullah Muaweya rejects TTP dismissal, says the Punjabi Taliban have their own shura.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan have removed Asmatullah Muaweya, the head of the Punjab faction of the militant group, from his position after he issued statements regarding the PMLN government’s proposed peace talks without prior approval from the central leadership.
Muaweya, who heads a TTP offshoot active in Punjab province, had earlier this week welcomed Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s offer of peace talks to the extremists. “Militants in Pakistan should respond positively if the government is serious about resolving the conflict,” he said in a statement issued in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan tribal agency. The TTP, meanwhile, has claimed that it is not interested in negotiations and targeted a convoy of military officials in Karachi on Thursday—four days after Sharif made the offer in his first televised address to the nation since he was elected into office.
Offended by Asmatullah’s statement, the TTP shura led by Hakimullah Mehsud has sacked the Punjabi Taliban leader, according to TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid. “We respect Asmatullah Muaweya, but he is not linked to the TTP,” Shahid told Newsweek. “He has been removed from the leadership of Punjabi Taliban through a decision taken by the central shura.” Shahid confirmed that the Taliban shura had taken the decision on Friday during a meeting presided by Mehsud.
Shahid said the TTP was considering the government’s offer of peace talks but would never lay down their arms—a prerequisite for negotiations proposed by Sharif. “We will decide on talks after seeing the government’s attitude,” he said. “But one thing that should be clear in everybody’s mind is that the Taliban will never lay down their arms. Expecting such a thing is nothing but fantasy.”
Muaweya, meanwhile, has rejected the TTP’s dismissal, claiming the central shura has no authority to remove him from his office. “The TTP have no authority to sack me from my position as the head of the Punjabi Taliban,” he said in a statement. “We have our own shura.”