The head of the Islamic militant group Pakistani Taliban (TTP), Mufti Wali Noor Mehsud, welcomed the Taliban's return to power in Afghanistan after 20 years of absence and stated, "We are hopeful for a strong relationship between the two of us," showing his expectations to strengthen cooperation with the Islamic group, in an exclusive interview with the Mainichi Shimbun.
The Pakistani government is tightening its guard against the TTP, who are gaining momentum with the Taliban back in control. The two groups are known to share the ideal of governing by Sharia, or Islamic law.
The TTP, established in 2007, is an alliance of militant groups based in northwest Pakistan or near the Afghanistan border. The group caught international attention with the 2012 attack on 14-year-old advocator for women's education Malala Yousafzai, who two years later won the Nobel Peace Prize. A 2014 school massacre killing over 140 people, mostly students, in the western city of Peshawar was also pinned on the militants.
During the interview, the leader spoke of the relationship with his Afghan counterpart to be "cordial and like a brotherhood." But he denied collaboration and commented, "We don't have any opportunities to participate (in their activities)," claiming that the TTP's activities are confined within Pakistan.
As for the Taliban, the commander said, "For their immense sacrifices, they will be given help from Allah. We sincerely hope for the establishment of a pure Sharia emirate." He rejected the idea that the power-shift in Afghanistan would affect TTP strategies, adding, "We are already intensifying our attacks from time to time against the government of Pakistan."
The Mainichi asked about the TTP's relationship with China. Beijing has invested heavily in Pakistan's infrastructure based on an economic package known as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, or CPEC, as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. Recently, the Chinese nationals related to these projects are believed to have become targets of repeated terrorist attacks. Quite a few cases have been linked to the TTP, but Mehsud claimed, "There is no hostility between the TTP and China." But he warned the Chinese government and its people to "not be influenced by Pakistan's conspiracy and deception, and to avoid initiating a war against the TTP."
Mehsud took the helm in 2018 and has revived activities of the TTP that had reportedly weakened at one point.
This rare interview was held indirectly for "security reasons." In response to a written inquiry provided to the TTP, Mehsud's recorded answers in Urdu and his photo were given to a Mainichi local correspondent on Sept. 6 and 14 through a related party.
(Foreign News Department)