One of the recurring themes of the discussion about anti-Taliban operations is that the so-called ‘Good’ or pro-Pakistan Taliban be protected. This point of view believes that jihadi militants who target Afghanistan, India, or the US but not Pakistan are not Pakistan’s enemy and should not be targeted because it could turn them against us. It is a belief that is often heard from PTI leaders like Imran Khan and Arif Alvi, but is also voiced by PML-N leaders like Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar who termed majority of jihadi militants as ‘patriots‘.
One of the jihadis whose name often arises as an example of ‘Good Taliban’ was Hafiz Gul Bahadur. Today, Bahadur has crossed the line from ‘Good’ to ‘Bad’ however when he openly declared war against Pakistan. Before that, though, he was often discussed as someone that the Army could work with, often quoting a 2006 peace agreement. Should it be a surprise that he has turned around and declared war though? The answer is no.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur was believed to be ‘Good Taliban’ because his main target was not Pakistan but Afghanistan, as was accepted by the Army before the last ‘all out assault’ against the Taliban.
In preparation for the assault, the army made ceasefire deals with several influential Taliban warlords who run large networks against coalition troops in Afghanistan. They include Mullah Nazir, the chief of the Taliban in Wana, South Waziristan, who operates the largest Taliban network in the Afghan province of Paktika. Mullah Nazir is neutral in this Pakistani conflict and agreed to allow passage to the army to enter Mehsud territory.
In North Waziristan, two top Taliban commanders, Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Moulvi Sadiq Noor, also agreed to remain neutral. They are members of the Shura of the Mujahideen and a main component of the Taliban’s insurgency in the Afghan province of Khost.
Instead of dealing with Bahadur five years ago, he was given that time to recruit, train, and grow his forces stronger only to have them openly turn against Pakistan in the end. Again, it should have been no surprise.
Though considered a “good Taliban” commander, Bahadur is known to have provided sanctuaries to foreign militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) and Al Qaeda. His friendly attitude towards anti-Pakistan militant groups and special affiliation with the ETIM was frustrating for the security establishment.
So-called ‘Good’ Taliban or ‘Patriotic’ jihadis are only ‘good’ and ‘patriotic’ as long as it serves their purposes. Eventually, however, they will turn against Pakistan because their final goal is to replace Pakistan with a pseudo-Khalifat of their own designs.
Hafiz Gul Bahadur is the latest ‘Good Taliban’ to show his true colours, but he will not be the last. How long until Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin, and other supposedly ‘patriotic’ jihadi leaders turn their sights inwards? If Zarb-i-Azb is to be a decisive action against terrorists, let it be a decisive action against ALL terrorists. Otherwise, will we find ourselves facing another ‘surprise’ in 5 more years?