The rise of a remote controlled Pakistani rebel

Mansoor Jafar
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Pakistan has again lived up to its reputation of being a unique country plagued by a perpetual leadership crisis. A country where people and political leadership are ever ready to be ruled by imported leadership. The world was amazed in the past when Pakistan silently accepted imported prime ministers from the West who were full-time employees of international banks and were not the citizens of the country.

This time it is the conglomeration of militant groups in north-west Pakistan engaged in a nine-year fight against the Pakistan army to choose their commander who is based inside Afghanistan that are causing the problem. Tehrik Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an umbrella of about 30-40 militant groups in mountainous tribal areas, have chosen Maulvi Fazlullah as their commander to replace Hakimullah Mehsud who died in a U.S. drone attack last week.

Maulvi Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Radio, has been based in the Afghan province of Nooristan where he has taken refuge for the last four years after Pakistan’s army took over his previous base in Swat district, in the Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa (KPK) province in Pakistan, as a result of a fierce, year-long, operation that left hundreds of people dead and wounded. Pakistan’s army has been waging a U.S.-propelled operation against TTP in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) to flush out al-Qaeda or Taliban men since 2004.

As expected, Fazlullah has immediately revoked the proposed Pakistan-Taliban talks which were about to be held to restore peace in the country and stop suicide attacks and ambushes against army convoys, and bombings at public places. The nine-year insurgency following the military operations in FATA since 2004 has taken over seventy thousand lives of innocent Pakistani civilians as different TTP groups later began attacking civilians to avenge the deaths of their families.

The Pakistani government was forced by all the political parties to engage the TTP in talks to restore peace, especially after the U.S.-led NATO forces were also engaging Afghan Taliban for peace talks to allow them safe pull out from Afghanistan after a 12-year war. But the talks process received a jolt when Mehsud was killed on the eve of talks as Islamabad was about to send its envoy to negotiate modus operandi of peace talks.

Who benefitted?

Mehsud’s death has directly benefitted the Indian and Afghan agencies, which had been trying to keep the Pakistani army engaged against the TTP for a long time. Mehsud’s death is considered to be the result of the conspiracy by Indo-Afghan agencies, since he was known as a supporter of the talks process with Pakistan. According to reports, Indo-Afghan agencies have been trying to snatch TTP command from Hakimullah Mehsud and made it sure that nobody from Mehsud’s tribes should succeed as the new chief.

Mehsud’s death has directly benefitted the Indian and Afghan agencies, which had been trying to keep the Pakistani army engaged against the TTP for a long time

Mansoor Jafar

These agencies had started believing that Pakistani agencies had made strong inroads into Mehsud tribesmen and it was feared that the tribe would take the TTP away from the path of enmity with Pakistan’s army. The likely successor of Hakimullah, Said Khan Sajna, was also considered to have a soft spot for Pakistan and an inclination towards striking a peace deal with Islamabad. Sajna was one of the top TTP commanders who had developed an averseness of committing subversion inside Pakistan.

Maulvi Fazlullah is one of the most wanted terrorist in Pakistan, with a bounty of 50 million rupees ($ 500,000) on his head. He studied in religious seminaries of his hometown, in settled areas district Swat, but began his career at a young age as a lift operator. He married one of the daughters of Maulana Sufi Mohammad, a veteran religious leader of Malakand, a neighboring district, who had a vast following among local people. Fazlullah succeeded Sufi Mohammad as head of his movement for Shariah [Islamic Jurisprudence] enforcement in the country, particularly the restoration of the Islamic punishment code through Qazi courts. He later began preaching on FM radio to a wider audience in the Swat and Malakand regions, and his fundamentalist ideologies later earned him the title of “Mullah Radio.” It was under his influence that the people of Swat denounced the U.S.-propelled military operation in tribal areas and also provided shelter to TTP men.

Known as a hardliner, Fazlullah was also accused of banishing all barbers from Swat for shaving, an act he considered strictly un-Islamic. Similarly, he was a strict enforcer of the veil for women and banishing women from co-educational institutions. He issued an edict declaring Pakistan’s army was committing an un-Islamic acts by killing its own countrymen on the dictation of Washington. His vituperation against Pakistan’s army reached new heights after it launched an operation in Swat. After Swat was taken over by the army, he fled to Afghanistan, and is reported to have been planning carrying out attacks against Pakistan’s army.

Pakistan is now engaged in a multi-front battle as the country is sandwiched between a web of conspiracies by two neighboring countries (India and Afghanistan). Besides, both Kabul and New Delhi have stepped up media campaigns against Pakistan in recent months, accusing Islamabad of exporting terrorism across the world.

The American CIA also jumped in to join anti-Pakistan conspiracies while Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was in Washington demanding that President Obama stop drone attacks. CIA–leaked stories hit the world headlines accusing Islamabad of being an equal partner with U.S. in drone attacks on tribesmen, pushing Nawaz Sharif and the Pakistani army into an embarrassing position before the whole world.

To add to the situation was the launching of two books, “I am Malala,” the biography of a teenage Pakistani girl from Swat currently living in the UK, considered the strongest voice against Taliban from back home. The second book was “Magnificent Delusions” penned by former Pakistani ambassador to U.S., Hussain Haqqani, who is considered a rebel of the country following the revelation of his roles to malign the Pakistani army in world forums. Both these books added fuel to the hatred against Pakistan being spread all across the world by painting a fake, demonizing picture of country’s army and Islamist leaders.

To top it all off, the country’s Islamist leaders have kicked up anew the debate of whether the Taliban and those against U.S. control over Pakistan should be called martyrs or not when they are killed by the Pakistani army. This debate surfaced after two top Islamist leaders called Hakimullah Mehsud a martyr and said that army personnel killed in operations against the U.S. are not martyrs.

The unfortunate situation in Pakistan is quite depressing as both government and opposition seem completely at a loss in countering the multi-faceted conspiracies against the country. No wonder the enemies are tightening their grip on Pakistan.


Mansoor Jafar is Editor of Al Arabiya Urdu based in Islamabad. He can be reached via Twitter: @mansoorjafar.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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