Group styles itself as 'real' Pakistan Taleban

Former Taleban and Islamic State militants surrender their weapons during a reconciliation ceremony in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on March 27, 2016.
Former Taleban and Islamic State militants surrender their weapons during a reconciliation ceremony in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, on March 27, 2016.PHOTO: EPA

The Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, like the broader Pakistan Taleban known as Tahreek-e-Taleban, from which it split in August 2014, follows an extremist branch of the rigorously conservative Deobandi strand of Islam.

The splinter group is led by former senior commanders of the Pakistan Taleban such as Ihsanullah Ihsan, a former spokesman, and Omar Khorasani.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar's objective is to create an Islamic state. Its influence is spread across four of the seven tribal districts bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan: Mohmand, Bajaur, Khyber and Arakzai.

Jamaat-ul-Ahrar has made major inroads in Pakistan in recent years at the expense of more open-minded local traditions, according to The Guardian.

The group, based in a restive zone along Pakistan's frontier with Afghanistan, has been responsible for a string of attacks, often on government workers or religious minorities, and has explicitly said it is at war against an "unbeliever state".

It styles itself as the "real" Pakistan Taleban, and is opposed to a strategy of negotiations adopted by the movement's official leadership following a major assault on its strongholds launched in 2014, The Guardian stated.

Pakistan's security agencies have long been accused of nurturing militants to help pursue security objectives in Afghanistan and against old rival India, Reuters reported. But some, like the Pakistani Taleban, have turned against the state and are fighting to install a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 29, 2016, with the headline 'Group styles itself as 'real' Pakistan Taleban'. Print Edition | Subscribe