It is well established that the Taliban and associated militant outfits are like the Lernaean Hydra. The lack of a strict hierarchy and loose connections makes them a difficult target. With the news that the Pakistani Taliban has split into two rival groups, we can only hope that one head has not been cut off only for two to take its place. This may divide the problem for Pakistan as one of the purposes of negotiating with the Taliban was to break them apart and wean them away for their insurgency against the state.

The split has been announced in the wake of the US ending its drone war in Pakistan and the Pakistani military taking a heavier hand to control the terrorist threat. It can be speculated that the removal of the US threat takes away an enemy for the Taliban as well as the anti-US narrative that fuels them. The split has been initiated by the powerful Mehsud tribe, which provides the Taliban with most of its funds and fighters from its base in South Waziristan. This faction is led by Khan “Sajna” Said who is promoting a somewhat softer stance and is willing to go forward with negotiations with the government. The group says it does not support the TTP’s involvement in extortion and robberies and that the TTP has become a hub for criminals.

Mullah Fazlullah, a Taliban commander from the Swat, speculated to be hiding in Afghanistan, currently heads the leftover TTP. The drone war has damaged the TTP to a large extent. Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike in November last year and Baitullah Mehsud, the TTP’s first leader, was killed in a drone strike in 2009. Talks with the government have been in deadlock, with the TTP calling off a negotiated ceasefire and promising a continuation of its actions against the government. This is a first major rift since 2007. After Hakimullah Mehsud’s death, Fazlullah was the first non-Mehsud leader, sparking internal rifts, which have led to the present split. Though Mullah Fazullah is still out for blood until “martyrdom”, the infighting may lead to further ruptures and defections by regional groups.