If US unwilling to take him out, Pakistan should
Hakimullah Mehsud’s death in yet another American drone strike resulted in serious haggling over his successor within the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) ranks with some sources claiming Fazalullah’s group going to the extent of threatening to disassociate in case of him not been the successor. That alone cannot be the deciding factor for the TTP with mostly tribal fighting force but Fazalullah did succeed in replacing Hakimullah.
It is indeed true that the US has violated Pakistan’s sovereignty by its constant drone attacks –which the US claims have tacit approval by the Pakistani executive. Whether it’s still in place is another question requiring detailed study as it changes the whole narrative of sovereignty violation. However, showing blatant disregard for the mandate given to the Nawaz government by the All Parties Conference for peace talks with the TTP, the US chose a time to eliminate Hakimullah just when these were to begin. It is indeed a severe setback to this peace-process as unfortunately US has not shown any more regard for Pakistan’s Constitution, democratic norms and sovereignty than the TTP.
It’s also quite perplexing that despite Fazalullah organizing amongst other barbaric acts, the infamous attack on Malala from Afghanistan right under the nose of Americans, he hasn’t been touched by those championing Malala.
Having humble origins, Fazalullah became son-in-law of Sufi Muhammad, the head of Tehrik-e-Nifaz e Shariyat Muhammdi and later merged his forces with the TTP becoming their chapter head in Swat post the Lal-Masjid fiasco orchestrated by Gen Musharraf. He shot to fame with his fiery radio-sermons playing on people’s genuine love for Shariah as well as the belief that timely and cost-effective justice has evaded them ever since the inception of Pakistani legal system in Swat which brought with it the kind of corruption plaguing the rest of the country. This gave rise to the popular demand of a return to Shariah-based jirga-system.
Amid growing public pressure a peace accord was brokered which was broken by two major events. One was the reported advances of the Swat Taliban into neighboring districts. But what really swung the public opinion against Taliban was a video of a female getting lashed publicly. By then people of Swat had largely turned against the rule of Fazalullah too, owing to some brutal tribal customs having been implemented in the name of Islam. An interesting point is that the infamous video turned out to be a fake, sponsored by an NGO claimed to be funded by the US but by then the damage was done.
An intense army operation ensued which flushed out the militants. Friends within army shared stories of finding Indian Servicemen’s identity cards on dead militants besides finding out some of the militant Imams to be non-Muslim during their burial process. Several pictures found their way onto the internet while more sensitive proofs were presented to the US and Indian governments through official channels. The non-existent informant network in Swat led to innocent lives being lost with people settling scores by identifying innocents as Taliban, aware of the lack of an effective mechanism to verify. The Army gave many sacrifices against the brutal tactics of Mullah Fazalullah’s gang using beheadings and mutilations to stir-up terror.
Despite all, overall the operation was termed a huge success looked at in awe by even the American forces dreaming to repeat the feat in Afghanistan. Fazalullah though managed to escape to Afghanistan where he has been provided sanctuary by the Afghan intelligence at the behest of India’s supreme intelligence agency RAW. Surprisingly the US has preferred to turn a blind eye to this despite having thorough knowledge and evidence.
Afterwards, a popular narrative was formed in Pakistan that Fazalullah and by that definition the TTP too, were sponsored by and at least at the leadership level, working for foreign powers unlike the Afghan Taliban fighting a just jihad for their freedom against the US led invaders.
Over time, it seems like the TTP has been able to forge closer ties with the Afghan Taliban amidst claims of Mullah Omar supporting Fazalullah as the latest amir of TTP. If true, this changes the whole scenario.
Fazalullah vehemently opposed peace talks with Pakistan and when Hakimullah decided in its favour, he launched a gruesome attack killing a Major General. Besides, the TTP had been carrying out a campaign against Pakistani civilian population as well as targeting the armed forces. While they justify attacks on the later citing Pakistan’s alliance with the US in the so-called war-on-terror, it cannot find many backers in the mainstream for its attacks on civilians as Islam strictly prohibits targeting civilians even during a war with non-Muslims.
The possible repercussions of Fazalullah’s nomination as the new TTP chief are dire for Pakistan’s security, economy and society. With nothing to lose and scores to settle while been controlled by anti-Pakistan powers he’s extremely dangerous for Pakistan. Fazalullah’s first order as TTP chief is to decline negotiations.
With the TTP still unnerved with Hakimullah’s elimination and Fazalullah taking the helm, the affairs being a non-Mehsud chief of the overwhelmingly Mehsud TPP while sitting across the border, it is high time that Fazalullah is eliminated. This will open up doors for a comparatively moderate and independent successor that we might be able to deal with. For those who cite repercussions, we’ll be facing much worse if Fazalullah is allowed time to take control of the TTP.
If the US is not ready to eliminate Fazalullah with a drone strike inside NATO-controlled Afghanistan, it will raise serious questions as to its intentions while confirming the strike on Hakimullah was indeed to derail the peace-process. In such a scenario, Pakistan would need to sends out its own team to eliminate the foreign-controlled terrorist in Afghanistan. If the US can justify the strike to target OBL, Pakistan too can for elimination of Fazalullah.
Omer Zaheer Meer is a leading Economist who is also a qualified Chartered Accountant, Financial Analyst and Anti-Money Laundering Expert. He can be reached on Twitter @OmerZaheerMeer, or on mail at: [email protected]