Pak Army carried out 2014 Peshawar school attack: TTP chief

In an interview with The Sunday Guardian, the reclusive Noor Wali Mehsud, the chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which is also known as Pakistani Taliban, shared never heard before insights on the developments happening in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region and inside Pakistan.

This is the first-ever interview given by Mehsud, who avoids media glare, to any Indian publication. He also spoke on the December 2014 shooting in the Army Public School, Peshawar in which more than 100 innocent school children were killed by gunmen. Mehsud claimed that the attack on the school was carried out by the Pakistan Army.

Mehsud, who till recently was being courted by the Pakistan Army, is now being searched for extensively with the Army and Pakistan’s intelligence agency, ISI, carrying out multiple operations daily to locate him. Edited excerpts:

Q: Why did you arrive at a ceasefire agreement with Pakistan? Was it because of the pressure that was put by the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network? Or were there some other internal/external reasons?

A: There was no pressure, internal or external. Meaningful negotiations are a part of the war.

Q: Secondly, what led to the collapse of the ceasefire? As per Pakistan government officials, your demands of opening a TTP office in Doha or any other third country, imposition of Sharia laws in the FATA region, and release of 102 TTP cadres who have been arrested and are in Pakistan custody, were impossible to meet. Is it true that you demanded these things? Was not an agreement reached about these things before the ceasefire agreement was announced?

A: The decision to end the ceasefire came because of Pakistan’s non-compliance with the agreements that were agreed upon during the pre-ceasefire talks including the opening of TTP’s office and the release of prisoners. However, Pakistan broke its promises and agreements. It repeated its past habit of never keeping its promises and agreements.

Q: Was the ceasefire discussion done by representatives of the Pakistan civilian government or was it done by representatives of GHQ-ISI?

A: The Pakistan Army.

Q: How would you describe the TTP’s present relations with the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network especially in the present situation when the Afghan Taliban is being seen as another front of the Pakistan Army?

A: The TTP has very good relations with the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network.

Q: Pakistan-based media reports have stated that the TTP has established ties with groups like Lashkar-e-Tayyaba and Jaish-e-Mohammad. How would you describe your relations with Lashkar chief Hafiz Saeed and Masood Azhar of Jaish-e-Mohammad?

A: So far, we have no formal relationship with these organisations. Yes, if these organisations want to join our movement while abiding by the rules of the movement, then the doors of the movement are open for them. I will make things very clear that our war front is only and only Pakistan, not with any other country, and before joining the movement, all groups should accept this.

Q: Recently, the former spokesperson of TTP and a senior functionary, Khalid Balti was killed. I have been told by sources in Pakistan and Afghanistan that such killings would become more frequent. There are reports that the killing was done on the orders of Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the Directorate of ISI. How worried are you about this development? And what kind of reaction, if any, will it generate?

A: This kind of carnage does not bother TTP because it is part of the war, and we are not afraid of such operations.

Q: An oft-repeated story and accusation by the Pakistan government are that the TTP works on the directions given to it by the Indian agencies and it is the Indian agencies that provide the TTP arms and finances. How would you respond to these allegations?

A: We are fighting our holy jihad against Pakistan, we know our goals very well. In the pursuance of these goals, we do not need anyone’s guidance.

Q: Has the withdrawal of the United States of America from Afghanistan impacted the TTP?

A: The United States was a burden on the whole region, now that burden has gone.

Q: It is claimed by the Pakistan Army that post-Operation Zarb-e-Azb (2014) and Operation Radd-ul-Fasaad (2017), the TTP has lost considerable power and it is now months, if not days, away from being totally eliminated. How true is this assessment?

A: The daily attacks carried out by us inside Pakistan are the answer to this question.

Q: Lastly, the TTP took responsibility for the shooting at APS, Peshawar in 2014 in which at least 132 unarmed school children were killed. Are you apologetic about this attack? Don’t you think that it is a crime that should have never happened?

A: The leaders who were or are being blamed for the incident in the Army School have all been martyred in US drone strikes. Since then, we have been demanding Pakistan to form an independent commission to find out who was behind the killing of these children. Who martyred these children for their own benefit? Our targets have always been adults. The children were massacred by the Army itself, as was also accepted by the runaway soldier (SSG commando) Mudassar Iqbal. We do not consider the massacre of children as a human act.

30 Jan 22/Sunday                                                                           Source: sundayguardian