Death of Fazal Ullah is not the first of its kind to rejoice as Baitullah Mehsood, Wali-ur-Rehman, Hakeemullah Mehsood -- and now Fazal Ullah -- met their fates almost under similar circumstances. Death of one such leader does not necessarily mean the end of a terrorist organization. The survival of such organizations should be seen in the context of prevailing international and domestic environments. It has to be seen as to how the international players want to use or misuse such centrifugal forces. Domestic environment implies the type of domestic policies and their acceptance by the common masses. Are the domestic policies addressing the popular demand of masses whenever there is a widening gap between public aspirations and governance delivery? There will be a vacuum and the space thus created will be filled by fissiparous forces and these forces are bound to create upheaval. FATA was a perfect environment where such a vacuum provided a breeding ground to such external elements. People were weary of draconian FCR and dictatorial powers of Political Agent. Strong tribal culture and importance of the institution of Malik further marginalised a common Pashtun. Increase in population of agencies, shrinking land holdings, preponderance of sophisticated weapons with returning fighters from Afghanistan and documentation of illegal trade through Fata further alienated the marginalized population, which was already suffering at the hands of corrupt bureaucracy of Political office and the FCR. The abrupt withdrawal of Soviet forces without a planned exit strategy created a vacuum and foreign fighters already operating on Afghan soil were readily available to occupy the space. There comes 9/11 and these miscreants found very conducive environments to flourish.
Foreign hostile agencies were already on the lookout to exploit such a situation. The role of international players was critical to survival of these elements for their own benefits to accentuate unrest in target country. There was already no dearth of sympathizers of such centrifugal forces averse to the very creation of Pakistan. International players promptly identified local leadership to further their agenda in the affected areas. They used them as long as they were useful in furtherance of their agenda and disposed them off when they were no longer required. As regards to killing of Fazal Ullah and role of foreign forces, on the face of it, it portrays excellent/ ideal cooperation by the US and Nato troops.
Fazal Ullah was roaming about freely on Afghan territory for quite sometime with total connivance of his foreign sponsors. He stands eliminated once he was of no use to them. History is replete with such examples in the past where terrorist leaders were located and the foreign troops were in knowledge of their hideouts during peak years i.e. 2006/2009; Bait Ullah Mehsood was only eliminated through a drone strike once he directly threatened safety of American troops and was instrumental in killing of a CIA station chief across in Tehsil Birmnal, Paktika, Afghanistan. Hakeem Ullah Mehsood was eliminated once he was hiding in Afghanistan and refused to tow the lines of his sponsors. He was taken off the scene once alternate leadership was already in place vying to serve their purpose. Moreover, Hakeemullah Mehsood was an impediment in the unification of all Taliban groups and was thus eliminated.
Study of heads of terrorist organizations is very interesting. Head of a terrorist outfit normally survives upto the age of 35-45 and hardly a terrorist leader goes beyond the age of 45 years. So the heads of such terrorist organizations should forsee their fate in the overall historical perspective. Death of Fazal Ullah at this juncture may not be taken as an olive branch extended. This is also an operation of convenience and it is quite likely that foreign forces/ our neighbors do not want to see Pakistan winning this battle. There is possibility of an alternate arrangement in the shape of so-called brotherly Islamic State. The hydra of ISIS is already surfing its head in the region. Daesh after reverses at the hands of Northern Alliance are nursing their wounds and shifting their weight to the western front along the Pak-Afghan border. TTP already war torn and pushed against the wall is fighting its battle of existence, is considered a drain and spent force on the arrival of Daesh. We should not be surprised to see an altogether new pattern of warfare where more and more hired combatants will be seen in Daesh in near future thus bringing in a new dimension of instability and chaos in the region. Apart from all the above factors, it should be remembered that terrorist organizations do not stand finished merely at the elimination of its leadership. Such organizations can only reach their ultimate fate once their entire network/ apparatus is dismantled, their financial mechanism is destroyed and all types of support mechanism targeted.
Optimism should prevail under the emerging scenario and it should be hoped that international players will play their part prudently in ensuring complete elimination of such groups, including their capabilities, to bring peace and stability in this strife-torn region.