2. Pakistan Army Operations
3. Taliban’s Top Commanders
i. Hakimullah Mehsud
ii. Maulana Waliur Rehman
iii. Qari Hussain Mehsud
iv. Maulvi Nazir Ahmad
v. Hafiz Gul Bahadur
vi. Maulvi Faqir Muhammad
vii. Qari Ziaur Rehman
viii. Maulana Fazlullah
ix. Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri
x. Abuzar Khanjari
xi. Azam Tariq
xii. Umar Khalid
4. Non-Taliban Commanders
xiii) Maulana Abdul Aziz
xiv) Maulana Masood Azhar
xv) Hafiz Muhammad Saeed
xvi) Syed Salahuddin
xvii) Abdul Wahid Kashmiri
xviii) Mangal Bagh
xix) Rashid Rauf
xx) Matiur Rehman
xxi) Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi
5. Upcoming Commanders
xxii) Wali Muhammad
xxiii) Ahmadullah Ahmadi
xxiv) Mohammad Omer
xxv) Maulana Halimullah
6. More Militant Commanders
This paper seeks to identify the top jihadist commanders of the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and other Sunni terrorist organizations in Pakistan who remain free despite the security operations conducted by the Pakistani military in recent years.
On September 1, 2010, the U.S. Department of State designated Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP, or the Movement of Pakistani Taliban) as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), and declared Hakimullah Mehsud, the Emir of TTP, and his deputy Waliur Rehman as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. A reward of $5 million each was also announced for information leading to the location of the two terrorist commanders.
The decision came within a month of the U.S. Department of State declaring Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) as an FTO and its commander, Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. On August 6, the United Nations also listed Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri as a global terrorist for “being associated with” Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, or the Taliban, and for “participating in the financing, planning, facilitating, preparing or perpetrating of acts or activities by, in conjunction with, under the name of, on behalf [of], or in support of” Al-Qaeda.
Like Hakimullah Mehsud and other TTP commanders, Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri is also believed to be based in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan. Kashmiri heads the Brigade 313, an operational unit of Al-Qaeda. In a sign of undeniable cooperation between the TTP and Al-Qaeda, Pakistani media reports indicated that the December 31, 2009, suicide attack on the CIA’s forward base in Afghanistan’s Khost province was planned by Ilyas Kashmiri, Hakimullah Mehsud, and other jihadist commanders based in the Pakistani tribal region. A video that emerged later showed Humam Al-Balawi, who carried out the Khost attack, sitting alongside Hakimullah Mehsud while recording his reasons for carrying out the suicide bombing.
Now, the operational relationships between the Taliban, Al-Qaeda, HuJi, and other Sunni jihadist organizations are so linked that it is impossible to delineate true differences between these groups. The Taliban are united under the leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar, Emir of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (the Taliban’s shadow government in Afghanistan). Though the Afghan Taliban are currently focused on their goal to drive out the U.S. and NATO troops from Afghanistan, their relationships with the Pakistani Taliban are inalienable. The Pakistani Taliban are united under the banner of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), but consider Mullah Omar as their Emir.
After the 2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, a large number of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants returned to their familiar bases in South Waziristan, where they were commanded by Nek Mohammad. However, after the killing of Nek Mohammad in mid-2004 in a U.S. missile attack, the militants were leaderless.
In December 2007, Baitullah Mehsud established the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan to organize the militants in South Waziristan. The TTP soon emerged as a loose confederation of a number of militant groups based in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATAs), which are situated along the Afghan border. Haroon Rashid, a senior Pakistani journalist who has reported developments in the Pakistani tribal region over several decades, noted in August 2009 that “unlike the other Taliban commanders such as Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir Ahmad, Baitullah Mehsud’s objectives were not limited to establishing Islamic Shari’a within South Waziristan and the tribal region; rather Baitullah Mehsud wanted the enforcement of Islamic Shari’a in Pakistan and across the entire world, and had indeed begun planning and was prepared to take bigger risks.”
2. Pakistan Army Operations
There are seven districts in the FATAs: South Waziristan Agency, North Waziristan Agency, Kurram Agency, Orakzai Agency, Khyber Agency, Mohmand Agency, and Bajaur Agency. Militant organizations are active in all seven districts. In recent years, the Pakistani Army has carried out several military operations against the Taliban and Al-Qaeda across the FATAs (except North Waziristan), and in the Swat and neighboring districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. One distinguishing feature of these military operations is that the top Taliban militant commanders have invariably escaped, except for those who were killed in the U.S. drone attacks.
In Swat district, where the Taliban militants led by Commander Maulana Fazlullah began enforcing Islamic Shari’a and their complete ban on girls’ education in early 2009 and started marching towards Islamabad, a military operation was launched in May 2009, with the Pakistan Army estimating the number of militants there to be over 4,000. In late-June 2009, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik noted that “most troubled areas” of Swat and neighboring districts were cleared of the militants. The militants dispersed, but have been trying to reorganize themselves in recent months.
In South Waziristan, where the Taliban’s top leadership has resided over the years with support from the Mehsud tribe, a military operation was launched in October 2009, formally coming to a close on March 30, 2010. Most of the militants escaped to North Waziristan or went underground. However, the Pakistani security forces remain present in the area. North Waziristan, where the Pakistani military has resisted U.S. pressure to carry out an operation, has remained a key militant safehaven. In September 2010, General (retired) Mirza Aslam Baig, the former chief of Pakistan Army, noted: “if America wants the Pakistan Army to launch military operation against the Taliban in North Waziristan, it will not happen.”
The operation in Bajaur Agency was launched in August 2008 and has been continuing in some form, with Damadola, the Taliban’s nerve-center in the district, falling to the Pakistani security forces on March 3, 2010. In Khyber Agency, where the militants of non-Taliban militant organization Lashkar-e-Islam are led by Mangal Bagh, the military launched an operation on April 26, 2010 to root out the militants from their stronghold of Bara. In the summer of 2008, the Pakistani Army carried out a show of military force there, but avoided targeting the militant commanders. The Pakistani Army has also carried out low-scale operations against the Taliban and other militant groups in Orakzai Agency, Mohmand Agency and Kurram Agency. Some military operations were meant to simply ward off U.S. pressure on Pakistan.
During the military operations, the militants have generally chosen not to fight, apart from offering some initial symbolic resistance and simply disappearing into mountains and neighboring safehavens. The Pakistani Army claimed to have killed hundreds of Taliban militants and arrested a large number of them, though the military’s claims are hard to verify as Pakistani journalists were not permitted to visit these areas during the operations. The only access to these areas for journalists was through press tours arranged by the Pakistani military.
However, the Pakistani Army has captured Maulvi Mohammad Omar, a spokesman of the TTP in August 2009, and Muslim Khan, a spokesman of the Maulana Fazlullah-led Taliban in Swat district, in September 2009. Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, a Lashkar-e-Taiba commander, has been detained under international pressure in connection with the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Maulana Sufi Muhammad, the chief of Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (Movement for the Enforcement of Prophet Muhammad’s Shari’a), is also under Pakistani custody, but he had not been underground. The Taliban militants in Swat are led by his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah. It must also be noted that the Pakistani military operations and the U.S. drone attacks have degraded the resources earlier enjoyed by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants, though they never have had an infrastructure of industrial dimension.
The militants of the Haqqani Network, the third-largest terrorist group in Afghanistan, have their safehavens in Pakistan’s North Waziristan district. There are concerns that the top commanders of the Pakistani Taliban remain safe, though a large number of low-ranking militants and criminals have been detained by the Pakistani security forces. In late-September 2010, the Pakistani military indicated that low-ranking militants may benefit from a rehabilitation program. Major General Ashfaq Nadeem, a senior commander of the Pakistan Army in the Swat district, announced that suspects involved in “insignificant terrorist activities” will be rehabilitated.
3. Taliban’s Top Commanders
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is a loose confederation of various militant groups based in Pakistan. In recent years, several Sunni jihadist groups based in the Punjab province of Pakistan, such as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Jaish-e-Muhammad, have been working in close operational partnership with the Taliban. Details of the top living Taliban commanders are as below, in no specific order.
i. Hakimullah Mehsud
Hakimullah Mehsud, also known as Zulfiqar Mehsud, succeeded Baitullah Mehsud as the Emir of TTP after Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike on August 5, 2009 in the Shaktoi area of South Waziristan. Early this year, Hakimullah Mehsud survived a U.S. missile attack.
In the first week of March, Umar Studio, the broadcasting arm of the TTP, released a video of Hakimullah Mehsud, with the new TTP chief stating: “The Afghan Taliban are waging jihad under the leadership of Mullah Omar, and Pakistani Taliban are also waging jihad under his leadership. The Emir of the Afghan Taliban and Emir of the Pakistani Taliban is also Emir-ul-Momineen [Leader of the Faithful] Mullah Omar. The Emir-ul-Momineen, Mullah Omar, is bravely confronting the infidels, and in this war against infidels the Pakistani Taliban are standing alongside him.”
Hakimullah Mehsud sat alongside Humam Al-Balawi as the latter recorded a video statement before his suicide attack on the CIA base in Khost on December 31, 2009. The last time Hakimullah Mehsud came on scene was in a video released hours after the May 1, 2010 failed bombing by Faisal Shahzad in New York’s Times Square. In that pre-recorded video, Hakimullah Mehsud warned: “From now on, the main targets of our fidaeen [suicide bombers] are American cities.’’
ii. Maulana Waliur Rehman
Among the top-ranking Taliban leaders, Maulana Waliur Rehman is of scholarly reputation and a strong claimant for the leadership of the Taliban movement. In February 2010, as speculation over the death of Hakimullah Mehsud was in full swing, an unidentified Taliban commander told a Pakistani newspaper that Maulana Waliur Rehman could be the next chief of the TTP. Like Hakimullah Mehsud and Qari Hussain, Maulana Waliur Rehman carries a reward on his head of 50 million Pakistani Rupees.
The scholarly Taliban leader is currently the Emir of the Taliban for the Mehsud region in South Waziristan. The Mehsud tribe forms the main support base of the Taliban, and therefore Maulana Waliur Rehman is a strong contender to succeed as the chief of the Pakistani Taliban.
At the time of Baitullah Mehsud’s killing in a U.S. drone attack in August 2009, there were reports of violent clashes for succession between the factions of Maulana Waliur Rehman and Hakimullah Meshud. However, in early October 2009, about two months after the killing of Baitullah Mehsud, Al-Qaeda’s media arm Al-Sahab released a video in which Maulana Waliur Rehman denied any internal differences, stating: “What our enemies are saying about disagreement among us is pure falsehood.”
While Waliur Rehman has emerged as a key contender to succeed Hakimullah Mehsud, there are many others who are considered excellent operational commanders.
iii. Qari Hussain Mehsud
Qari Hussain Mehsud, or simply Qari Husain, is one of the top Taliban commanders, and is responsible for training suicide bombers. Popularly known as Ustad-i-Fidayeen (teacher of suicide bombers), he was reported to have been killed first in 2008 and again in June 2009. In mid-October 2010, one Pakistani newspaper reported that Qari Hussain Mehsud was killed in an October 4 U.S. drone attack, but a Taliban commander close to him accused the “infidels and their agents” of spreading disinformation to demoralize the Taliban, telling the Dawn newspaper that he is “alive and healthy and will soon contact the media.”
In October 2009, when Hakimullah Mehsud invited a small group of militants to meet with him, three key commanders – Qari Hussain Mehsud, Maulana Waliur Rehman and Azam Tariq – were present with him. All four commanders form a decision-making nucleus of the Taliban leadership in South Waziristan. A cousin to Hakimullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain is a strong contender to take over the Taliban’s killing machine.
The Pakistani government has announced a reward of 50 million Pakistani Rupees for his capture or killing. In March 2010, police arrested Noor Jahan and Rehmat Gul, two members of Pakistan’s para-military Frontier Corps force, from Islamabad over their role in planning an attack on a foreign mission in cooperation with Qari Hussain and another militant commander Muhammad Hanif. In April 2010, Qari Hussain was in the news, claiming responsibility for a suicide attack on a police station in Kohat, a town in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He is a top operational planner for the TTP.
iv. Maulvi Nazir Ahmad
Maulvi Nazir Ahmad controls his own group of the Taliban in North and South Waziristan. Before the October 18, 2009, security operation against the Taliban in South Waziristan, the Pakistani military reached an understanding with Maulvi Nazir Ahmad not to target his fighters or carry out a security operation in North Waziristan. At a grand jirga (meeting of tribal elders) at Wana in South Waziristan, Pakistani military authorities assured that a peace accord reached with the Nazir group of the Taliban in South Waziristan in 2007 remained intact, with a report noting: “The assurance was given by Major General Sajjad Wazir and other military officers.”
The Pakistani military’s truce with the Maulvi Nazir Ahmad group of the Taliban was seen with suspicion by independent observes, with some arguing that such a truce made North Waziristan a safehaven for militants who would flee from South Waziristan as a result of the military operation. The Pakistani military’s stance was that it is necessary to wedge a division among the Taliban ranks to gain a tactical advantage. However, North Waziristan has now emerged as a safehaven for the militants.
Maulvi Nazir Ahmad and Gul Bahadur are seen as pro-government Taliban commanders in Pakistan, though their relationship is complex, sometimes tactical and at other times strategically useful to each other. In April 2008, the government of Pakistan gave cash compensation to more than 500 people for the Taliban fighters killed or wounded during the 2004 military operation in South Waziristan. The Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Jasarat reported that Mullah Nazir Ahmad and about 150 senior Taliban fighters, affected by the military operation, were given an undisclosed large amount.
The Pakistani military is not known to have undertaken any security operation against Maulvi Nazir Ahmad’s fighters recently.
v. Hafiz Gul Bahadur
In early 2009, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Maulvi Nazir Ahmad, and Baitullah Mehsud (who would later be killed on August 5, 2009) were reported to have joined together, thereby constituting the top leadership of the Pakistani Taliban. In recent months, Gul Bahadur’s name hasn’t figured in Pakistani media regularly, though this may be due to the fact that he is safely placed in North Waziristan.
Although he and Maulvi Nazir Ahmad are seen as pro-government militant commanders, there were some conflicts in this relationship, such as in June 2009 when 22 Pakistani soldiers were killed in two attacks in South and North Waziristan districts. Soon after the incident, a report in the Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Khabrain noted that Hafiz Gul Bahadur announced the scrapping of the peace agreement with the government.
However, the understanding exists currently between the two militant commanders and the Pakistani army not to attack each other in North Waziristan.
Following the October 18, 2009, security operation in South Waziristan, a large number of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants moved to North Waziristan, the territory controlled by Hafiz Gul Bahadur and Maulvi Nazir Ahmad. In late-April 2010, a media report noted the security situation in North Waziristan: “The fighters – including Arabs, Chechens, and Uzbeks – roam through markets, frequent restaurants, and watch jihadi movies or surf the web at Internet cafes, their weapons propped up against the table. Pakistani troops wave them through checkpoints even though they’re armed with assault rifles and rocket launchers.”
The Pakistani military continues to resist U.S. pressure to carry out an operation against the Taliban in North Waziristan.
vi. Maulvi Faqir Muhammad
Maulvi Faqir Muhammad is the Deputy Emir of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan as well as the Emir of the Taliban fighters in Bajaur Agency, one of the tribal districts along the Afghan border. After Baitullah Mehsud’s killing, he claimed to have temporarily taken over as the TTP chief. In February 2010, there were reports that Maulvi Faqir Muhammad had been removed from his as position as the TTP’s Emir for Bajaur Agency for not conducting resistance against the Pakistani army.
The pro-Taliban Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Islam reported that, revealing a rift in the Taliban leadership, the TTP’s Shura (executive council) replaced him by Maulvi Dadullah, who is also known as Maulana Mohammad Jamal, as the Emir of the Taliban in Bajaur Agency. The newspaper said that a group of militants led by Afghan Taliban commander Qari Ziaur Rehman had pressed for strong resistance against the Pakistani security forces in Bajaur Agency, but Maulvi Faqir Muhammad was opposed to any action against Pakistani security forces.
However, there were no subsequent media reports that could shed light on this rift. Maulvi Faqir Muhammad remains the Deputy Emir of the Taliban as well as their Emir for Bajaur Agency. It should be noted that these distinctions of designation are to an extent immaterial, as most of the Taliban commanders have their own loyal force of fighters, while the TTP is a loose confederation of various militant commanders.
Maulvi Faqir Muhammad has enjoyed support of the Pakistani military commanders, though his group has suffered as a result of recent army operations. In March 2010, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad threatened to resume attacks on Pakistani security forces in Bajaur Agency if the Pakistani government did not stop military operations in the area, stating: “We abdicated our positions and chose not to fight against the security forces following an ‘understanding’ that our people will not be harmed. But the government appears to be continuing with its repressive policies.” He is currently lying low.
vii. Qari Ziaur Rehman
Qari Ziaur Rehman is a top Taliban commander who has been fighting against the Pakistani security forces in the tribal district of Bajaur Agency, which borders Afghanistan’s eastern Kunar province. His fighters are active in Bajaur Agency as well as in the Nuristan and Kunar provinces of Afghanistan. Pakistan has announced a reward of 5 million Pakistani Rupees for his arrest due to his connections with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.
In February 2010, Qari Ziaur Rehman rejected a Pakistani government claim that he is an Afghan national, saying: “You may know the tribesmen live and have properties on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border. My forefathers were born and died in Bajaur and I am a Pakistani by birth.” However, the militant commander claimed that he also operates in the Marawara area of Kunar, telling a Pakistani newspaper that he has been appointed the Taliban’s commander for both Bajaur Agency and the Marawara area.
His statement was made amid rumors that Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, the Taliban’s Emir for Bajaur Agency, has been removed from his post. In March 2010, a statement of Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik that Maulvi Faqir Muhammad and Qari Ziaur Rehman were killed was denied by Waliur Rehman, a militant commander who is based in Bajaur Agency. Qari Ziaur Rehman is believed to be alive.
viii. Maulana Fazlullah
In early 2009, Maulana Fazlullah, who is the Emir of The Taliban in the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, was in international headlines after his fighters began enforcing Islamic Shari’a across the region following a Shari’a-for-peace deal with the secular Pakistani government. However, an international outcry against the militants’ total ban on girls’ education forced Pakistan to launch an army operation in the Swat district in May 2009.
In July 2009, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik disclosed that Maulana Fazlullah was injured in a clash with the security forces. However, the Taliban released an audio message in Fazlullah’s voice, denying that he was wounded and warning that jihad will be continued against the government until the enforcement of Islamic Shari’a. These reports preceded two more reports in September 2009, at a gap of two weeks, that the militant commander was “detained” by the Pakistani security forces. It is not clear how Fazlullah escaped, most likely aided by some security officials. He is son-in-law of militant cleric Sufi Muhammad, the architect of the infamous Shari’a-for-peace deal, now under flimsy custody.
In November 2009, Fazlullah called Pakistani media organizations from an Afghan mobile telephone number, claiming that he was in Afghanistan, and warned of guerrilla-style attacks in Pakistan. However, it is well known that mobile phones with Afghan phone service are in circulation in the Pakistani tribal region. In late-April 2010, Omar Hasan Ahrabi, a spokesman for Maulana Fazlullah, claimed that the fugitive commander “is somewhere in Pakistan, but is easily able to cross the border to Afghanistan whenever the need arises… I am in touch with him through handwritten letters. He is in our ‘watan’ (homeland).”
In May this year, Afghan media reported that Maulana Fazlullah has been leading the Taliban fighters against U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan’s eastern Nuristan province. He is believed to be currently in the Barg-i-Matal district of Nuristan.
ix. Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri
Mohammad Ilyas Kashmiri, a former commando of the Pakistani Army, used to be the Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami’s head for the Azad Jammu & Kashmir (AJK or the Pakistani Kashmir). In recent years, he has moved to the Pakistani tribal areas and has been working in close cooperation with the Haqqani Network, the second most powerful component of the Afghan Taliban. Several media reports of his killing in U.S. drone attacks have turned out to be false.
Kashmiri, who was declared a global terrorist by the United Nations and the U.S. Department of State in August 2010, is believed to be based in the Pakistani tribal district of North Waziristan. His role in India’s Jammu & Kashmir has been widely reported. Kashmiri was behind the 2002 attack on the American Centre in the eastern Indian metropolis of Kolkata. He was also responsible for planning the February 2010 bomb blasts on a bakery in India’s western city of Pune. Having escaped from a prison in Indian Kashmir on multiple occasions, he heads the Brigade 313, which was initially formed by him within the HuJI. Brigade 313 is now considered as an operational planning unit of Al-Qaeda.
In May 2010, a Pakistani newspaper reported that Ilyas Kashmiri leads the Lashkar-e-Zil (Shadow Army), an Al-Qaeda organization responsible for the December 2009 suicide bombing at the CIA base in Afghanistan’s Khost province. In an editorial, the liberal Pakistani newspaper Dawn noted that the CIA base attack was a “spectacular example of collaboration” between the Afghan Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and the Pakistani Taliban. On August 6, 2010, the United Nations and the U.S. State Department both declared him as a global terrorist.
x. Abuzar Khanjari
Abuzar Khanjari is chief of the Punjabi Taliban, a reference to militants who speak Punjabi and Urdu languages and come from the Pakistani province of Punjab, where a large number of Sunni militant groups have emerged as committed ideological feeder organizations for the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Pakistan.
In March 2010, a Taliban statement confirmed the killing of Qari Muhammad Zafar, who was wanted for the 2006 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, in a U.S. drone attack in North Waziristan. Zafar was the chief of the Punjabi Taliban and had links with the anti-Shi’ite militant organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has been working in close cooperation with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in recent years.
Abuzar Khanjari succeeded Zafar as the Emir of the Qari Zafar group of the Punjabi Taliban, with the reference “Qari Zafar group” meaning that it is just one possible cell of terrorists among the non-Pashtun Taliban. Soon after his appointment as the Emir, Khanjari warned that Pakistan will continue to be the center of their operations, also vowing to avenge the death of Qari Zafar. There are no current indications about his whereabouts.
xi Azam Tariq
Being the official spokesman of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, Azam Tariq is the most-often heard voice internationally. Although untraceable by the Pakistani security forces, he is able to reach the Pakistani journalists easily, almost after each terror attack. In July 2010, he claimed responsibility for the killing of Mian Rashid Hussain, the only son of Mian Iftikhar Hussain, a senior minister of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Recently, he has been able to reach Pakistani journalists in August and September.
Azam Tariq, who has connections in Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, was appointed to the post of spokesman after TTP spokesman Maulvi Omar was captured by the Pakistani security forces in August 2009. In the crucial month of August 2009, when Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone attack, Azam Tariq’s appointment as TTP’s spokesman came simultaneously after Hakimullah Mehsud was appointed as the Emir of TTP. The two are close, and Azam Tariq could potentially succeed Hakimullah Mehsud.
xii. Umar Khalid
At the end of the July 2007 military operation in the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) of Islamabad, hundreds of Islamic militants occupied the shrine of Haji Sahib Turangzai, a cleric who waged jihad against the British rule, and a nearby mosque. The mosque, in the Ghazi Abad village in Mohmand Agency, was renamed as Lal Masjid (Red Mosque). The group’s commander was identified as Umar Khalid, the Emir of local Taliban.
A former commander of the anti-India jihadist group Harkatul Mujahideen, Khalid – whose real name is Abdul Wali – has the experience of Kashmir jihad. He is currently the Emir of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan for Mohmand Agency. He is believed to control about 5,000 Taliban militants, including some Arab and Uzbek fighters.
After the May 1, 2010, failed Times Square bombing, the Los Angeles Times reported that a Pakistani military officer facilitated a meeting between Umar Khalid and Faisal Shahzad, who is now under custody in the U.S. for the failed bombing.
4. Non-Taliban Commanders
The expression “non-Taliban” is not a strict classification, as over the past decade several Sunni jihadist organizations in Pakistan have joined hands with Al-Qaeda and the TTP, which is primarily based in the Pakistani tribal region along the Afghan border. Some groups such as Lashkar-e-Taiba of Hafiz Muhammad Saeed do not attack Pakistani institutions and, therefore, have differences with the Taliban as the latter target the Pakistani security forces. However, their ideas of jihad against the West are alike. The militant commanders below are known for their extensive contacts within the Pakistani jihadist movements.
xiii. Maulana Abdul Aziz
In mid-2007, female students of Jamia Hafsa and male students of Jamia Faridia – the two madrassas controlled by Maulana Abdul Aziz and his brother Abdur Rashid Ghazi – began enforcing Islamic Shari’a in Islamabad, occupying a government children’s library and forcing citizens to follow an Islamic code in their daily lives. Maulana Abdul Aziz and Abdur Rashid Ghazi were prayer leaders at the Red Mosque, known for its proximity to top Pakistani military generals.
The occupation of the library and enforcement of Shari’a in the federal capital was publicly seen as a challenge to the authority of the Pakistani state, forcing then-Pakistani ruler General Pervez Musharraf to order a military operation in the Red Mosque. Dozens of armed fighters and students were killed, along with Abdur Rashid Ghazi. Maulana Abdul Aziz was caught by the Pakistani security forces while fleeing clad in a burqa (women’s full-body veil).
The renaming of the mosque in Mohmand Agency as Red Mosque by the Taliban militants led by Umar Khalid point to the Taliban’s links to Maulana Abdul Aziz. His brother Abdur Rashid Ghazi had fought in the ranks of the Taliban during the Afghan jihad of the 1980s. Maulana Abdul Aziz was released from custody in April 2009 after a court granted bail in the last of a series of cases brought against him by the Pakistani government.
Over the past few years, Pakistani prosecutors have avoided presenting evidence against Maulana Abdul Aziz in various cases that were brought against him. In June 2010, when a court acquitted him in one of the cases, the Urdu-language newspaper Roznama Express noted that the cleric has been acquitted in a number of cases earlier “amid public criticism in Pakistan that the Pakistani government is not pursuing the terrorism charges against him seriously.” Although not strictly an operational commander currently, the jihadist connections of Maulana Abdul Aziz are known to be within the Pakistani military as well as in the militant organizations.
xiv. Maulana Masood Azhar
Maulana Masood Azhar leads the Jaish-e-Muhammad, which has emerged as the most powerful Al-Qaeda-linked Sunni jihadist organization, with its headquarters based in Bahawalpur city in Pakistan. Azhar is one of three terrorists freed by India in exchange for the passengers of an Indian aircraft hijacked from Kathmandu to Kandahar in 1999. The Jaish-e-Muhammad has been fighting against India, especially in Kashmir, for more than two decades.
In recent years, the Jaish-e-Muhammad and its fighters have been fighting alongside the Taliban and Al-Qaeda against the Pakistani state institutions.
There are indications that Jaish-e-Muhammad was involved in recruiting Faisal Shahzad, who unsuccessfully tried to explode an explosives-laden car in New York’s Times Square on May 1, 2010. According to a Pakistani daily, Shahzad met with Mohammad Rehan, the head of Jaish-e-Muhammad in Peshawar, in Karachi and the two drove in a rented pick-up truck to Peshawar, where they stayed together in July 2009.
The group’s publications, including the weekly jihadist magazine Haftroza Al-Qalam, are freely available in Pakistan and on the internet. Azhar is underground but the Pakistani government has not shown any intention to act against his organization.
xv. Hafiz Muhammad Seed
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is an internationally known terrorist commander with a close relationship with the Pakistani military. Saeed, who is the founder of jihadist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), functions as the Emir of Jamaatud Dawa. Following the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jamaatud Dawa, along with a number of its charities, were outlawed by the UN Security Council.
In late-April, M. K. Narayanan, the former National Security Adviser of India and now the Governor of the Indian state of West Bengal, warned that Lashkar-e-Taiba has “proven links” with Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), noting: “The LeT is linked to the ISI; these links are well-proven. There is a specified section of the ISI to oversee covert operations of the LeT, which has networks in 21 countries, including Australia, North America, Europe, and Asia.” The group is known for having propped up several militant groups in India recently, e.g. Indian Mujahideen, Deccan Mujahideen.
Around the same time as M. K. Narayanan was making his statement, General David Petraeus, the Commander of U.S. Central Command, warned that the Lashkar-e-Taiba is planning attacks similar to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, noting: “We should observe that the Lashkar-e-Taiba, the group LeT that carried out the Mumbai attacks, we think they’re trying to do more damage and they’re trying to carry out additional attacks.”
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed’s group does not target Pakistani security forces and works to advance the strategic interests of Pakistan in the region, especially against India. He is free, as Pakistani prosecutors fail to provide evidence for courts to convict him. In late-April, six “most wanted” militants were arrested from the Jamaatud Dawa headquarters in Muridke, near Lahore, though some Pakistani newspapers made it a point to note that they were seized from the gate of the headquarters.
In recent months, Saeed’s Jamaatud Dawa has transformed itself as the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation. As early as May 2009, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported that Jamaatud Dawa has emerged as Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation (FIH), with around 2,000 members of Jamaatud Dawa helping the victims of Pakistani military operations. Mian Adil, a ‘former’ member of Jamaatud Dawa and deputy chairman of Falah-i-Insaniat Foundation, said: “We are silently helping the homeless, hungry and needy people, and let us do our work without maligning us.”
During the August 2010 floods in Pakistan, the FIH emerged in a major way, helping the flood victims. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Aid, was mired in a controversy for visiting a flood relief camp set up by the FIH in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
xvi. Syed Salahuddin
Syed Salahuddin is the Chairman of Muttahida Jihad Council, a coalition of over two dozen militant groups based in Pakistan. However, the number of the militant groups constituting the coalition has gone down in recent years. Salahuddin is the Supreme Commander of his own militant organization Hizbul Mujahideen, which has been fighting against the Indian security forces in Indian Kashmir.
In April this year, Syed Salahuddin, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar were scheduled to address an audience in India’s Jammu & Kashmir via teleconference. However, the teleconference was cancelled an hour before, with the Indian security forces arresting Mohammad Ahsan Untoo, an Islamist human rights activist who had organized the event.
Like Maulana Masood Azhar and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Syed Salahuddin is a strong advocate of jihad internationally. As of now, the international community has largely ignored him. However, Syed Salahuddin’s relationship with the other jihadist organizations across Pakistan has a long history. He survives under the watchful eyes of the Pakistani military. In July 2010, Syed Salahuddin, along with several other militant commanders, made a rare public appearance at an anti-India rally in Islamabad, telling the protesters: “If the Pakistan government could not protect the interests of the Kashmiris, it should step aside as they are capable of fighting for their cause.”
In the town of Kotli in Pakistani Kashmir, a number of jihadist organizations led by Syed Salahuddin organized a “Defense of Pakistan Conference” on March 23, 2010. At the conference, Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Abdul Wahid Kashmiri appeared in public for the first time in a decade, declaring: “It is the right of mujahideen to fight the invaders and oppressors across the world. The mujahideen fighting the occupation forces in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Kashmir are fully justified in doing so under religious obligations… The secret of success and freedom from the oppressor lies in jihad and not at the negotiating tables…”
xvii. Abdul Wahid Kashmiri
Along with Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Abdul Wahid Kashmiri is a founding member of Lashkar-e-Taiba. Following the 9/11 attacks on America and under mounting international pressure on Pakistan to act against militants, Saeed quit his post as the Emir of Lashkar-e-Taiba and appointed Abdul Wahid Kashmiri, on December 24, 2001, as his successor. Abdul Wahid Kashmiri went underground to avoid a crackdown launched by Pakistan’s military ruler General Pervez Musharraf under U.S. pressure. Appearing in public in March this year in Pakistani Kashmir, he told a conference that it is the “right of mujahideen to fight all invaders and oppressors across the world.”
It is believed that Lashkar-e-Taiba, a pro-military organization, has been functioning under the leadership of Abdul Wahid Kashmiri and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Its two charities Jamaatud Dawa, which is outlawed, and the Falah-e-Insaniat Foundation, which is not outlawed, are above ground. Pakistani Kashmir is an area heavily fortified by the Pakistani military. Abdul Wahid Kashmiri’s emergence in public indicates that it is now acceptable to the Pakistani military for him to publicly engage in jihadist activities without constraints.
In August 2010, a report in the Pakistani daily The News noted: “Once focused closely on the conflict in Jammu and Kashmir [in India]… the Lashkar is evolving into a global exporter of terror, as its extremist leadership has opened its training camps to foreigners… [and its] terrorist training camps still operate in Pakistan…”
xviii. Mangal Bagh
Mangal Bagh is the Emir of Lashkar-e-Islam, a militant organization active in Khyber Agency. Although Lashkar-e-Islam is a non-Taliban militant group, there are no differences in their ideological objectives and military tactics. Lashkar-e-Islam is the dominant militant organization in Khyber Agency, while its rival is Ansarul Islam. In June 2008, the Pakistani military carried out an operation against the two organizations, capturing low-ranking militants but avoiding taking on the top commanders.
In mid-2009, the Pakistani government showed a strong inclination to target Mangal Bagh and other top commanders of Lashkar-e-Islam. In September 2009, the Pakistani government announced a cash reward of five million Pakistani Rupees for information leading to the arrest of Mangal Bagh. The government also announced bounties on Mangal Bagh’s top fighters, including Safoor son of Saadullah, Nazir son of Saeed Mohammad, Adnan son of Zar Gul, Wahid son of Sarwar Shah. However, a threat by Mangal Bagh in September 2009 forced policemen in Khyber Agency to avoid their duty. As a result, 715 policemen were sacked by the government.
However, Mangal Bagh, who rose from a bus conductor to become the Emir of Lashkar-e-Islam, and his fighters have avoided engaging in head-on fighting against the Pakistani security forces, and are currently underground.
xix. Rashid Rauf
Rashid Rauf escaped easily from custody in 2007 after the Pakistani police allowed his uncle to drive him back from a court appearance in Islamabad. A British citizen of Pakistani origin, he is believed to be Al-Qaeda’s director of European operations. His sister is married to Mohammad Tahir, one of the younger brothers of Jaish-e-Muhammad chief Maulana Masood Azhar.
Rashid Rauf was involved in the August 2006 plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airplanes by using liquid explosives. He was allegedly killed in a U.S. drone attack on November 22, 2008 in the Alikhel village of North Waziristan. However, the British and U.S. intelligence agencies have failed to confirm his killing, and he is believed to be alive.
Given Rashid Rauf’s operational expertise and vast connections in the Pakistani jihadi networks, his role in the September-October, 2010 terror plot involving targets in the United Kingdom, Germany and France cannot be ruled out.
xx. Matiur Rehman
Matiur Rehman, believed to be in his early 30s, has been affiliated with Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (HuJI) as well as Lashkar-e-Jhangvi – both linked to Al-Qaeda – at different points of his career. The Pakistani government has announced a reward of 10 million Pakistani Rupees for information leading to his arrest.
He has been wanted in connection with several terrorist attacks, including the 2002 bomb blast at the Karachi Sheraton Hotel and the December 25, 2003 attack on Pakistani ruler General Pervez Musharraf. He is also linked to the August 2006 plot to bomb the trans-Atlantic aircraft and the September 2008 Marriot Hotel bombing in Islamabad.
In recent years, Matiur Rehman, who is also known as Samad Sial, has worked as the chief operational commander of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, and has also been identified as Al-Qaeda’s planning director by the Pakistani investigating agencies. Last year, a Pakistani daily described Matiur Rehman as “extremely dangerous because of his role as the liaison between Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani jihadi community.”
Pakistani security agencies have not been able to trace his whereabouts recently. In January 2010, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) of Pakistan published a list of 119 most wanted militants, including Matiur Rehman.
xxi. Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi
In February this year, Punjab’s provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah was widely criticized for seeking the support of Muhammad Ahmed Ludhianvi to win a by-election from Jhang constituency to the provincial legislature. Ludhianvi is the most powerful of all jihadist commanders in present-day Pakistan.
The cleric heads the Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, which is also known as Millat-e-Islamia Pakistan. These are new names of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a formerly political-religious party that has been outlawed for its decades-long violence against Shi’ite Muslims in Pakistan. The SSP is also known as the mother of all major Sunni jihadist organizations in Pakistan. In recent years, the SSP’s cadres have been working alongside the Taliban and Al-Qaeda.
In July 2010, following the controversy surrounding Law Minister Rana Sanaullah, Ludhianvi claimed that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif also met with him and sought the support of the SSP to win elections this year. Under popular pressure, the Sharif government ordered a crackdown against the SSP members in July 2010; 210 members of the SSP in Punjab province were arrested; and 22 SSP offices were sealed across the province. However, the provincial government cannot act against Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi and other top leaders of the group for fear of violent reprisals.
5. Upcoming Commanders
There are hundreds of low-ranking militants whose names do not figure in the Pakistani media as they are yet to draw the attention of international intelligence agencies. However, a few such names which crop up under the radar of the Pakistani spy agencies for being in supporting role to top commanders are listed below. These commanders could easily succeed their superiors in the near future.
xxii. Wali Muhammad
Wali Muhammad is the spokesman of the Taliban (Maulvi Nazir Ahmad group) in South Waziristan. He is also known as Shaheen.
Amid escalating tensions between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai terror attacks of November 2008, he warned of suicide attacks in India in the event of a war, adding: “Our differences with the [Pakistani] government notwithstanding, if the issue is national security, we have 500 suicide bombers who will enter India.”
xxiii. Ahmadullah Ahmadi
Ahmadullah Ahmadi is a spokesman for the Hafiz Gul Bahadur-led Taliban in North Waziristan. In June 2009, when 22 Pakistani securitymen were killed in attacks in North and South Waziristan, Ahmadi warned of more such attacks on the Pakistani security forces if the U.S. drone attacks did not stop.
xxiv. Mohammad Omer
Mohammad Omer is a spokesman for the Taliban’s Media Center in North Waziristan. In April 2010, he accused the Pakistani media of playing as government’s ally in the fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistani armed forces.
In a letter to various media organizations, Omar accused the media of presenting only one-sided reports of the security operations in the FATAs. The letter asked the media to stop its one-sided reports on the security operations in the FATAs and noted that it is the last such warning to the Pakistani media.
xxv. Maulana Halimullah
Maulana Halimullah is a militant commander based in Pakistan’s South Waziristan district. He owes his allegiance to Maulvi Nazir Ahmad. Militants loyal to Maulana Halimullah are based not only in South Waziristan but also across the border in Afghanistan.
In August 2010, Maulana Halimullah issued pamphlets, giving a two-day ultimatum to the Mehsud supporters of Hakimullah Mehsud to leave Wana, the district’s main town. The decision seems to have followed the assassination a few days earlier of former Pakistani lawmaker Maulana Noor Mohammad, a leader of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam.
Maulana Noor Mohammad is believed to have been killed by the Hakimullah Mehsud group, as the cleric had opposed militant attacks inside Pakistan. Maulana Halimullah and Maulvi Nazir Ahmad currently enjoy a peace agreement with the Pakistani military.
6. More Militant Commanders
According to various Pakistani media reports, the following militant commanders are believed to be active in the jihadist groups. However, detailed information about them is not easily available as the media attention remains focused on top commanders.
Abdul Rehman Makki, a prominent Lashkar-e-Taiba commander, has been working alongside Hafiz Muhammad Saeed. Like Makki, Abdul Aziz Alvi works as part of Lashkar-e-Taiba’s charity arm Jamaatud Dawa in Pakistani Kashmir.
Azmatullah Mehsud, a serious claimant to leadership, is a Taliban commander working closely alongside TTP chief Hakimullah Mehsud. Wali Mohammad, Shamsur Rehman, Alimullah, Raees Khan, Sharif Khan and Noorul Islam work alongside Maulvi Nazir Ahmad. Maulana Noor Syed, Haji Aftab Khan and Maulvi Abdullah Jan belong to the Baitullah group, now led by Hakimullah Mehsud. Maulvi Aleem Khan, Saifullah, Abu Shoaib and Commander Khalil belong to the Hafiz Gul Bahadur group. Aslam Farooqi has been the Taliban’s commander in Orakzai Agency.
Hafiz Noor Saeed Khan is a leader of the Taliban in Orakzai Agency. Maulvi Noor Salam is a Taliban leader in Kurram Agency. Tariq Afridi is a prominent Taliban commander in Khyber Agency. Qari Shakil is a deputy to Umar Khalid in Mohmand Agency. Dr. Ismail is a deputy of Maulvi Faqir Muhammad in Bajaur Agency. Ibn Amin is a deputy of Maulana Fazlullah of the Swat district. Maulvi Dadullah, who is also known as Maulana Mohammad Jamal, works among the Taliban in Bajaur Agency.
While a number of top terrorist commanders such as Baitullah Mehsud – and Nek Mohammed before him – have been killed in the U.S. drone attacks, the Pakistani military operations have failed to capture the top militant commanders.
This list of top jihadist commanders does not include religious leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami or other religious-political parties, or Maulana Fazlur Rehman, whose Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (part of the federal governing coalition in Islamabad) has been known to have nursed a generation of Taliban militants. The above-listed names of the top Pakistani jihadist commanders do not constitute an exhaustive list.
Each of these commanders is supported by a core group of advisers and hundreds of fighters. It is also believed that hundreds of influential militant commanders have gone underground under international pressure and due to the Pakistani military operations.
However, some militant groups such as Hizbut Tahrir Pakistan, which advances Al-Qaeda’s goal of establishing an Islamic caliphate, are active publicly despite a government ban. Similarly, anti-India jihadist commanders such as Syed Salahuddin are untouched by the Pakistani military. Meanwhile, scores of younger generations of ideologically committed jihadists are also beginning to make their own mark in Pakistan’s jihadist movements.
*Tufail Ahmad is Director of MEMRI’s Urdu-Pashtu Media Project.
 U.S. Department of State (www.state.gov), U.S., September 1, 2010.
 U.S. Department of State (www.state.gov), September 1, 2010.
 United Nations Security Council, http://www.un.org/sc/committees/1267/NSQI28410E.shtml, accessed September 18, 2010.
 The News (Pakistan), January 11, 2010. Also, see MEMRI’s Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor, Report No. 2741, January 8, 2010.
 MEMRI TV Clip No. 2338, January 9, 2010.
 Daily Times (Pakistan), June 19, 2004.
 BBC Urdu, August 8, 2009; http://www.bbc.co.uk/urdu/multimedia/2009/08/090807_baitullah_video.shtml
 Roznama Jang (Pakistan), March 9, 2009.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), June 24, 2009.
 Daily Times (Pakistan), March 16, 2010. The Pakistani military has previously carried out at least three major operations in South Waziristan.
 Wrazpanra Weesa (Afghanistan), September 22, 2010.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), March 3, 2010.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), April 26, 2010.
 For a detailed analysis, see: Pakistani Military Drive Avoids Targeting Taliban, Inquiry & Analysis Series No. 454, MEMRI, July 10, 2008.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), August 9, 2009.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), September 12, 2009.
 Roznama Express (Pakistan), September 22, 2010.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), January 15, 2010.
 “Taliban’s New Video of Hakimullah Mehsud Fails to Conclusively Establish That He Is Alive,” The MEMRI Blog, March 5, 2010.
 MEMRI TV Clip No. 2338, January 9, 2010.
 TTP Declarations: Targeting American Cities, MEMRI Special Dispatch Series No. 2935, May 3, 2010.
 The News (Pakistan), February 10, 2010.
 Wrazpanra Wahdat (Pakistan), November 2, 2009.
 In New Al-Sahab Release Waliur Rahman, “Emir of the Mujahideen of the Mehsud Tribe,” Vows to Avenge Killing of Baitullah Mehsud; Denies Reports of Internal Dissent,” The Jihad and Terrorism Threat Monitor, MEMRI, October 5, 2009.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), June 25, 2010.
 Dawn (Pakistan) October 15, 2010.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), October 5, 2009.
 Daily Times (Pakistan), January 17, 2010.
 The News (Pakistan), March 23, 2010.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), April 19, 2010.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), October 5, 2009.
 Roznama Jasarat (Pakistan), April 30, 2008.
 Roznama Mashriq (Pakistan), June 30, 2009.
 www.dawn.com (Pakistan), April 22, 2010.