The Pakistani Taliban's powerful Mehsud group has condemned Thursday’s attack on one of the country’s top clerics, Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehman, in Quetta, the capital of southwestern Baluchistan province, saying those involved in the attack are against Islam and religious scholars.
Fazl, a conservative pro-Taliban Deobandi cleric and head of Jamiat Ulema Islam -- one the country’s two mainstream religious parties -- narrowly escaped the attack.
It occurred as soon as he boarded his bullet-proof car after addressing a public rally in Quetta.
Two people, including the bomber, were killed and 30 others injured.
It is the latest in a string of terrorist actions in Quetta in the recent past.
Sunni militant group Jandullah has claimed responsibility for the attack.
The group has been active on the Pakistan-Iran border through numerous brazen assaults on Iranian border guards.
Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the Taliban’s Mehsud group, said in a statement on Saturday that attacks on religious scholars were “disgraceful.”
“Those elements who are involved in such attacks are neither sincere with Islam nor with religious scholars,” Tariq stated.
Azam Tariq had previously served as spokesman for Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan -- a coalition of different insurgent groups, also known as the Pakistani Taliban -- under its slain leader Hakeemullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strikes in North Waziristan in November 2013.
Fazl suspects he is being targeted because he has declared militant activities in Pakistan as haram, or religiously forbidden.
He has previously escaped two attacks: a rocket attack in 2008 in the northwestern district of Taank and a suicide attack in Swabi town in 2011.
Hailing from the Deobandi school of thought, the same as the bulk of the Taliban, Fazl is considered to have a soft spot for the group.
However, he has publicly and out rightly opposed suicide attacks in Pakistan -- inviting the Taliban’s ire.
Two top Deobandi, pro-Taliban clerics -- Maulana Hassan Jan and Maulana Merajuddin Khan -- have previously been killed by the Taliban for declaring that suicide attacks in Pakistan are un-Islamic.
Deobandi is the most widespread Sunni school of thought in Pakistan and represents 12,000 out of a total 20,000 madrassas, i.e. religious seminaries, in Pakistan.
Fazl is considered to be the political representative of the Deobandi school of thought in Pakistan.
The attack on Fazl, analysts believe, has further exposed the deepening rifts within the Pakistani Taliban's ranks.
“Maulana Fazl-ur-Rehamn has not only always supported the idea of peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban, but has fought for their case in Pakistan as well. But simultaneously, he always opposed militancy and suicide attacks in Pakistan, which turned various Taliban groups against him,” Abdul Khalique Ali, a Karachi-based security analyst, explained.
He observed that the attacks and killings of Deobandi clerics who oppose suicide bombings in Pakistan signaled the beginning of a rift emerging within the Taliban's ranks.
The once formidable Pakistani Taliban is currently divided into four major groups, of which the Mehsud group -- led by Khan Said Sajna -- is the most powerful.
The group recently parted ways with the Mullah Fazlullah-led Pakistani Taliban, blaming its fighters in the murder of religious scholars and other crimes.
Sajna was an ex-deputy of Hakeemullah Mehsud and was a strong contender for the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban, after the killing of its former leader.
The Pakistani Taliban was dealt another blow last week when its six key commanders, including former spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, pledged their allegiance to the ISIL.
The move prompted the group’s leader, Mullah Fazlullah, to sack the respective commanders.
AALast Mod: 25 Ekim 2014, 22:44