November 7, 2013 8:21:44 pm
Mullah Fazlullah,who ordered the assassination of teenage activist Malala Yusufzai and led a brutal rule in Swat Valley,was on Thursday named the new chief of the Pakistani Taliban a week after former leader Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike. “Fazlullah has been elected as the new chief,” Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told reporters.
The move came a week after Mehsud was killed in the drone attack in North Waziristan on Friday.
The Taliban Shura or council also chose Sheikh Khalid Haqqani as deputy chief of the group. Known for his ruthlessness,Fazlullah was nicknamed “Mullah Radio” for his fiery sermons on an illegal FM station while heading a parallel administration in Swat Valley,160 km from Islamabad,during 2007-09.
Under his command,the Taliban enforced a harsh form of Shariah or Islamic law and public executions,floggings and the bombing of girls’ schools were common.
When the Pakistan Army sent troops into Swat to flush out the militants in early 2009,Fazlullah fled with hundreds of his fighters to Afghanistan,from where he ordered the attempt on the life of Malala Yusufzai last year.
Fazlullah rose to prominence as a leader of the banned Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah-e-Mohammadi (TNSM),which merged with the TTP in 2007 following the military crackdown on extremists holed up in Lal Masjid in Islamabad.
Earlier this year,the Taliban released a video to claim the killing of Maj Gen Sanaullah Khan Niazi in a roadside bombing which showed Fazlullah celebrating the success of the attack.
Fazlullah’s predecessor Mehsud was killed in the drone strike soon after the Pakistan government said its representatives were set to meet the TTP to open peace talks.
The drone strike triggered an angry response from Pakistan,with Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan accusing the US of sabotaging peace efforts.
“Fazullah’s election as the chief of the TTP shows that extreme radical elements have taken over. He is a ruthless man,has done evil things to Pakistanis and has evil designs for the country. Our experience with him in Swat was painful,Lt Gen (retired) Talat Masood,a leading security analyst,said.
Asked about the ramifications of the development on proposed peace talks with the Taliban,Masood said,”If there was any doubt,his election has just wiped it off. He is a ruthless man who will not be for talks. The government should take preventive steps.”
The Taliban have vowed to take “unprecedented” revenge for Mehsud’s killing,in which they allege the Pakistan government was involved.
Rights activist Yusufzai survived despite being shot in the head by a Taliban fighter and was taken to Britain for treatment. The Taliban have threatened to attack her again if they get a chance.
The Taliban Shura had initially agreed on Khan Syed alias Sajna as the successor to Mehsud but later withheld the decision due to opposition from commanders belonging to Nuristan. The militants then named Shehryar Mehsud and Asmatullah Shaheen as caretaker chiefs before Fazlullah was chosen the head of the TTP.
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