Even as Pakistan maintained on Friday that it was not in a position to confirm the death of “good Taliban” commander Mullah Nazir in a drone attack in South Waziristan on Thursday, reports from the remote tribal agency suggested that his group of fighters had named a successor within hours of his death.
According to The Express Tribune, the Taliban not only confirmed his death but also announced that “the Shura of Mullah Nazir Taliban Group has agreed to and appointed Bahwal Khan — known in the area as Ayubi — as the successor of Mullah Nazir. Bahwal Khan will be the commander of the Mujahideen of Wana.”
The Taliban group also claimed that the Shura’s decision had the backing of religious clerics and tribal elders of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe of Wana, the main town of South Waziristan where Mullah Nazir’s writ used to run large.
Bahwal Khan was a close confidant of Mullah Nazir and the two fought together against the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan. He also comes from the Ahmedzai Wazir sub-tribe to which Mullah Nazir belonged.
According to newspaper reports, the death of Mullah Nazir was announced on loudspeakers across Wana and his funeral prayer in Azam Warsak was well attended.
Seen as “good Taliban” in the Pakistani narrative that seeks to draw a distinction between terrorists who launch attacks in Afghanistan and those who train their guns on Pakistan, some analysts fear his killing may turn the Ahmedzai Wazirs against the state.
This is something Pakistan can ill afford as the Mehsud tribe-dominated Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan has been attacking Pakistani targets across the country at will. By signing a peace deal with Mullah Nazir in 2007, Pakistan Army essentially bought peace with his group in the hope that they would keep the TTP at bay as both had a running turf war in the tribal agency.