The Radio Mullah’s Second Coming

Nov 7, 2013 by     No Comments    Posted under: Spotlight, The Diplomat

When Maulana Fazlullah, a.k.a the ‘Radio Mullah’, established a religious seminary and started a movement to implement the Islamic Law in Swat in 2001, the valley suffered from continuous unrest. Fazlullah’s followers stopped girls from attending schools and women from visiting markets, unless they wore burqas. Fazlullah’s struggle for the implementation of Sharia took an even more violent form after Pakistani security forces raided the notorious Lal Masjid in 2007. When the newly-elected government in KPK came to power in 2008, it extended an offer of peace talks to Fazlullah, hoping to bring stability to the region through negotiations.

Following a series of discussions in Swat and Peshawar, the two sides reached a 16-point agreement on May 21, 2008 to bring an end to violence and restore peace to the valley. Within days however, disagreements arose. Demanding the retreat of the army from the valley and the release of their prisoners first, the radicals refused to surrender their arms as specified in the pact. Instead, they started attacking government officials, electronics shops, and schools. The army launched a military operation (Rah-e-Haq), but with the unprecedented levels of violence and casualties (both civilian and military), the KPK government had no choice but to implement the Shari`a-based Nizam-e-Adl regulation, as demanded by Fazullah’s Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi in Swat in February, 2009. Subsequently, Fazlullah declared a cease-fire.

Peace was to be short-lived however, as with the Army inactive, Fazlullah’s forces overran Mingora in May, and then pushed into the neighboring Shangla district, only 60 miles from Pakistan’s capital. The Taliban’s progress toward Islamabad ringed major alarm bells in the upper echelons of the government and Pakistan had to launch a decisive military operation to counter Fazullah’s forces. Within two months of Operation Rah-e-Rast, Fazlullah fled Swat, and many of his commanders were either arrested or killed. The failure to arrest or kill Fazlullah however, has come back to hurt Pakistan.

Taliban+talks

Following the recent death of the notorious Hakeemullah Mehsud, TTP were expected to choose a new leader from among their ranks. In a Press Conference from an unknown location, TTP’s caretaker leader Asmatullah Shaheen announced today, “Fazlullah is the new TTP chief”. This decision has certainly come out of the blue, as almost everyone was expecting the Pakistan faction of the Taliban to choose Hakeemullah’s right hand, Khan Said Sajna, as their new leader. Their choice, however, could not have been better. Sajna may have been Hakeemullah’s chief aide, but he is nowhere as shrewd and learned in the matters of politics as the Radio Mullah.

Fazullah’s experience in playing the metaphorical game of chess with the government, and his undeniable success at it, will be undoubtedly valuable to the Taliban, who have all options to consider now that the leader who was going to talk to the government is no more. Simply put, if the government and the TTP still go through with the talks that were proposed before Hakeemullah’s death, the government will be playing ball with a much more shrewd opponent sitting across the table. Although Fazlullah has moved quickly to state that there will be no more peace talks with the government for now, it can be expected that a man of his wit would want to keep all options in his reach. Whatever his and the TTP’s direction under him, for now, one can only admire how the TTP have pulled a trump card out of their pocket at probably the perfect moment.

The Author

Ali Qamber is an engineering student at PNEC, NUST. He is a certified maila from St. Patricks High and lives, loves and wastes his time in Karachi. Besides writing useless stuff such as above, he also enjoys the finer things in a Karachiite's life, like night-cricket, hangouts at the beach and strikes. Find him on twitter (@qamberger) or facebook (saliqamber).

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