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Pakistani Taliban official raises questions about his demotion

From Shaan Khan, CNN
updated 10:16 AM EST, Thu March 8, 2012
  • The Pakistani Taliban say their deputy commander held unapproved talks
  • They have removed him from his post and demoted him to the rank of regular fighter
  • He says he had approval from the organization to engage in the talks
  • The group's leadership still has not informed him directly of his demotion, he says

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- A prominent figure in the Pakistani Taliban on Thursday questioned a decision by the group's leadership to remove him from his position of deputy commander over accusations he held unauthorized talks with the Pakistani government

The Pakistani Taliban's leaders demoted Maulvi Faqir Mohammed to the rank of regular fighter, Ihsanullah Ihsan, a spokesman for the organization said Monday.

The decision to relieve Faqir of his duties followed a written demand from the group's leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, Ihsan said. Faqir had been speaking to the Pakistani government without Mehsud's approval, Ihsan said.

But Faqir on Thursday contested that account. He said he had the approval of the organization to engage in peace talks with the Pakistani authorities.

The Pakistani Taliban, founded by Baitullah Mehsud in 2007, are a banned Islamist group active in Pakistan's tribal areas. They are said to have links with the Afghan Taliban and al Qaeda.

Faqir Mohammed said he had not been directly informed of the decision to demote him and would consult his colleagues about it before deciding what his future plans were.

He said he had no plans to leave the Pakistani Taliban and remained in favor of peace talks with the Pakistani authorities.

Since its inception, the Pakistani Taliban has carried out attacks on military forces and installations, as well as on civilian targets in the region.

Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a drone strike in 2009.

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