By Rahimullah Yusufzai
Baitullah Mehsud has become the only Pakistani with a head-money separately announced by both the Pakistan government and the US.
However, the head money placed on him by the US is far larger than that announced by Pakistan. It is offering $5 million, or Rs410 million, for his capture. In comparison, the Pakistan government offer of Rs50 million, or $600,000, for credible information that could lead to his capture is peanuts.
As someone remarked, bounty-hunters would inform the US authorities to claim the head money instead of telling the Pakistan government due to the much bigger amount of dollars being offered by the Americans. Requesting anonymity, he said the two governments should pool their efforts not only in terms of the head money they are offering for Baitullah Mehsud, or BM as he is called by officials of the intelligence agencies, but also getting him killed or captured through a coordinated strategy.
The belated announcement of head-money by the Pakistan government for Baitullah Mehsud and 10 other Pakistani Taliban commanders was made through an advertisement carried by newspapers on Sunday. All 11 of them are affiliated to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and belong to Fata.
In terms of the head-money, Baitullah Mehsud is followed by his deputy Maulana Faqir Muhammad, who is the Taliban commander for Bajaur. Head money for him is Rs15 million or $182,000.
The head money for five other TTP commanders — Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid and Qari Shakeel from Mohmand Agency, Tariq Afridi from Darra Adamkhel and Hakimullah Mahsud and Qari Hussain from South Waziristan — is Rs10 million each or $122,000.
Qari Hussain’s name in the list of wanted militants with head-money should be enough to deny recent reports in sections of the media that he was killed in the June 23 US drone attack on a funeral gathering in South Waziristan. Known as the ìUstad-e-Fidayeen,î or trainer of suicide bombers, Qari Hussain personally phoned some reporters in Peshawar and Dera Ismail Khan to refute media reports that he had been killed.
For the remaining four TTP commanders, the head-money is Rs5 million or $61,000. They are Qari Ziaur Rahman, who in fact is an Afghan national living in Bajaur, Fazal Saeed Otayzai from Kurram Agency, Mufti Ilyas from Darra Adamkhel, and Waliur Rahman alias Aliur Rahman from Bajaur.
The newspaper advertisement announcing head-money for the 11 TTP commanders didnít carry their pictures. Government officials handling the matter said they didnít have any pictures of the 11 wanted men. This was strange and shows the lack of intelligence on the TTP leadership that is presently available with the government.
The newspaper advertisement, however, provided the name of the fathers of the 11 men, their tribe and address. Bounty-hunters were promised secrecy in case they came forward with credible information for nabbing the wanted men, alive or dead.
Four phone numbers were also listed for informers having information about the whereabouts of Baitullah Mahsud and the 10 other men. However, efforts to reach those phone numbers turned out to be tough exercise. There was no response from the toll-free number 0800-15015 even after a long wait and effort. The phone rang on the other side when the number 091-9210210 was contacted but nobody answered. The phone number 091-9210457 remained busy whenever it was called. Only the fourth number, 091-9212158, could be reached after some effort. The operator who answered said about 20 people made calls on the phone number from places like Peshawar, Malakand and Karak but nobody provided any information about the whereabouts of the wanted Taliban commanders. ìThey were just curious. They wanted to know more about the head-money and the wanted militants,î he said while hastening to request anonymity.
The US announcement of $5 million head-money for Baitullah Mahsud a few months ago catapulted him to the rank of a senior al-Qaeda leader. Such a huge amount hasnít been offered for the capture of most of al-Qaeda and Taliban commanders who until now have been killed or captured. Though he is a Pakistani Taliban commander loyal to the Afghan Taliban leader Mulla Muhammad Omar, the US government accused him of being an al-Qaeda facilitator. Baitullah Mahsud was also accused of sending fighters to Afghanistan to attack the US-led coalition forces.
It may be added that Osama bin Laden and his deputy Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri carry head-money of $25 million each. The head-money for Afghan Taliban leader Mulla Muhammad Omar is $10 million. Despite such huge amounts, the three men are still at large. In fact, there have been no sightings of bin Laden, Zawahiri and Mulla Omar since the collapse of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in December 2001 and all reports regarding their whereabouts are based on speculations.
Earlier on May 28, the ANP-PPP coalition government in NWFP had announced head-money for the 21 Taliban leaders and commanders from Swat. It included the Swat Taliban head Maulana Fazlullah with a head-money of Rs50 million, an amount equal to that offered by the Pakistan government for Baitullah Mahsudís capture. The offer of reward to informers didnít have any impact, at least until now, as none of the 21 wanted Taliban commanders from Swat has been killed or captured. NEWS 29-6-09