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November 8, 2013

Fazlullah has Mulla Omar’s backing

November 8, 2013


ISLAMABAD: The selection of the Afghanistan-based Mullah Fazlullah as the first non-Mehsud Ameer of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) could not have materialised without the backing of the Ameer of the Afghan Taliban Mulla Mohammad Omar, well-informed sources in the establishment have disclosed.
According to the militant circles in the tribal belt, the selection of a non-Mehsud who comes from the Swat district of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, unlike Baitullah Mehsud and Hakimullah Mehsud who belonged to the Waziristan Agency of Fata, seems to be an attempt to avoid a major split in the TTP.
In fact, the Hakimullah group of TTP had already chosen Sheharyar Mehsud alias Shahbaz as the Ameer of their faction in North Waziristan and were backing his candidature for the slot of the TTP Ameer.
On the other hand, another powerful faction of the TTP had been backing the candidature of Said Khan Mehsud alias Khalid Sajna, the Ameer of the South Waziristan chapter of the TTP who had been the deputy Ameer of the terrorist outfit in the past. Therefore, it was decided to give the leadership of the TTP to a non-Mehsud to avoid an imminent split in the 40-plus member militant conglomerate.
Interestingly, the formal announcement of Mullah Fazlullah’s elevation as the new Taliban Ameer was made by the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid on phone from Afghanistan.Rightly or wrongly, he tried to give an impression as if the central Shura meeting of the group was held across the border in Afghanistan because the previous Shura moot held in North Waziristan had resulted in Hakimullah’s death in a drone attack.
The 17-member central Shura of the Jihadi umbrella had to hold several sessions for three days before reaching a consensus on the name of the new Ameer. Informed sources in the establishment say, at least six commanders heading their respective factions of the TTP were vying for the top slot because of which the Shura could not reach a decision for three days.

Eventually, it was Mulla Omar, who is described by the Pakistani Taliban as their “Ameerul Momineen” who intervened and paved the way for the appointment of Fazlullah as the new Ameer.
Like Hakimullah Mehsud, his successor Mullah Fazlullah also owes allegiance to the Ameer of the Afghan Taliban. But he is considered to be more close to Mulla Omar than any other TTP leader right now because of the fact that he is already working in tandem with the Afghan Taliban and that too on the Afghan soil.
Mullah Fazlullah took shelter in the Kunar province of Afghanistan after the Pakistan Army had launched a massive military operation in Swat in 2009 titled “Operation Black Thunderstorm” that forced him and his private army to flee. He regrouped in Afghanistan and established his strongholds in Nuristan and Kunar provinces, thereby posing a threat to Pakistan once again.
Popularly known as Maulana Radio for the illegal FM radio stations he used to run to instigate people for taking part in Jihad, Fazlullah has turned into a ruthless terrorist who had recently claimed responsibility for the brutal killing of Maj Gen Sanaullah Khan Niazi, the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Swat, in the Upper Dir area in an IED blast.
The selection of Fazlullah, who carries Rs50 lakh head money announced by Pakistan, as the new Ameer is being described as a victory of the anti-talks elements within the TTP who were being spearheaded by Fazlullah. On the other hand, the hot favourite for the top slot, Said Khan Mehsud alias Khalid Mehsud, had to face strong opposition from not only the Fazlullah faction of the TTP but also from the Hakimullah and the Omar Khalid groups, mainly because of his pro-talks stance. It seems Fazlullah’s selection was largely motivated by those elements who wanted to carry on their fight against the state of Pakistan. The TTP spokesman has already declared that the Taliban would not hold any talks with the government because their new Ameer is also opposed to the talks “which have always been used to deceive them”.
On the other hand, sources in the establishment say the Taliban’s refusal to hold talks apart, the Pakistan government itself is no more in a position from now onwards either to pursue talks with the TTP or to expect the support of the military leadership for the talks process in the future.
The sources reminded that Fazlullah had not only killed Maj Gen Sanaullah Niazi but he had also threatened on October 1 in a video message to target army chief General Kayani the way his men had attacked and killed GOC Swat on September 15, 2013. Appearing in a video released on the Facebook page of Umar Media, the official propaganda organ of the TTP, Fazlullah claimed responsibility for having killed Maj Gen Sanaullah, adding that his ultimate target was General Kayani.
“Our next target is (General) Kayani and corps commander (Peshawar). Allah willing, we will attack them. We are working on it,” Fazlullah can be heard in the video as saying. The video first shows a footage which captured the blast that killed the GOC Swat and his two aides on September 15. A military vehicle is seen travelling along a road on the side of a mountain when it is hit with a massive blast. The vehicle explodes and then careens down the mountainside, to be followed by slogans of Allah-o-Akbar by the Taliban. The video then shows Fazlullah giving an interview and detailing the attack that killed GOC Swat. “We had also hit Major General Javed Iqbal’s helicopter last year. The Pakistan Army is still unable to understand as to how we had done that.”
In the aftermath of the killing of GOC Swat and the threat hurled on General Kayani, the Pakistani authorities had exerted further pressure on the Karzai administration for the arrest and extradition of Fazlullah, saying he was being provided shelter and support by the governor of Kunar province and the Afghan intelligence agencies.
Although, the Afghan authorities express ignorance about Fazlullah’s presence on the Afghan soil, it was in June 2012 that the Swati Taliban had themselves declared that they were using Afghanistan as a springboard to launch cross border attacks on the Pakistani forces.
“Fazlullah is leading the Swati Taliban to carry out attacks from the border provinces of Afghanistan. He is in touch with his fighters in Malakand division,” Sirajuddin, the spokesperson for Malakand chapter of the TTP, had told a senior Pakistani journalist on phone in 2012.The Pakistan government had earlier sought Mullah Fazlullah’s extradition from Kabul after it transpired that the failed assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai was ordered by him.
According to the intelligence information shared by Pakistani authorities with their Afghan counterparts, Fazlullah shuttles freely between Kamadesh and Chapa Dara districts in the border provinces of Nuristan and Kunar to conduct cross border ambushes inside Pakistan with the full backing of Afghan intelligence agencies and the governor of Kunar province, Fazlullah Wahidi. While Kamadesh is a village located in the Bashgal Valley of Nuristan on the Pak-Afghan border, Chapa Dara is situated in the western part of Kunar which borders Nuristan.
Pakistani Ambassador to Kabul Mohammad Sadiq is on record having stated on Oct 24, 2012: “There are people in the Afghan set-up who support Fazlullah because without their support, it will not be possible for the TTP men to move so freely there. The governor of Kunar has actually declared Jihad against the Pakistan Army.” However, the Karzai government continues to be in a state of denial about Fazlullah’s presence on its soil, just like Pakistan which continues to express ignorance about the presence of the infamous Haqqani militant network in North Waziristan.




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