September Issue 2009
Second in Command
Maulana Waliur Rahman couldn’t become the amir, or head, of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) following the death of Baitullah Mehsud, but he did manage to grab arguably the most powerful job in the banned organisation. As the amir of the TTP in South Waziristan, he controls the resources and fighters in the organisation’s birthplace and stronghold. In a way, the new TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud would be dependent on him for money and manpower.
The 35-year-old Waliur Rahman belongs to the Malkhel section of the Manzai sub-tribe of the Mehsuds. He was born in 1974 and graduated from the Jamia Islamia Imdadia, Faisalabad, in 1994 after studying in local madrassas in his native South Waziristan. Later, he taught for about seven years in a seminary in Karama in South Waziristan.
Like most Taliban militants, Waliur Rahman was associated with Maulana Fazlur Rahman’s Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI) before giving up peaceful politics and drifting to the extremist TTP. He was able to win Baitullah’s trust and became his close aide. According to Taliban sources, Baitullah entrusted him with the responsibility of managing the TTP’s finances. In due course, he started representing Baitullah in negotiations with government representatives and tribal jirgas. He was also passing on Baitullah’s messages to various TTP chapters and sometimes acted as his spokesman. But his most important function was to hold the TTP purse and disburse money to militant commanders. It appears that he will continue to perform this job and, in the process, wield unparalleled influence in the outlawed organisation.
Waliur Rahman’s brother Qareebur Rahman was killed when militants stormed the military fort at Saplatoi in South Waziristan some time back. The paramilitary Frontier Corps resisted the attack and Qareebur Rahman, along with a number of militants and soldiers, was killed in the fighting. Waliur Rahman’s father, Asmatullah, reportedly suffered a heart attack and died when he was informed about his son’s death.
Waliur Rahman will be the man to watch out for as the TTP learns to operate without Baitullah. Unlike the combative Hakimullah, he is mature and calculating. In the view of the militants, Waliur Rahman will be exerting a calming influence on the emotional Hakimullah while jointly running the TTP affairs.
This post is part of a larger article: see Staging a Comeback.
Rahimullah Yusufzai is a Peshawar-based senior journalist who covers events in the NWFP, FATA, Balochistan and Afghanistan. His work appears in the Pakistani and international media. He has also contributed chapters to books on the region.