The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) elected Mullah Fazlullah, also known as Mullah Radio, as their new leader, the interim chief of the TTP confirmed on Thursday. Fazullah will be taking the place of Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a US drone strike on Friday.
The man said to be behind the attack on Malala Yousafzai, Fazlullah is seen to a hardliner who tried to impose his version of Shariat in the Swat Valley in 2007-09. Fazlullah headed the Taliban interim set up in Swat before a military operation pushed back the TTP into the tribal areas.
The announcement was made by TTP caretaker leader Asmatullah Shaheen at a press conference at an undisclosed location in northwest Pakistan. “I congratulate all the Muslim brothers that Maulana Fazlullah has been elected as the new chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan,” Shaheen said.
“The supreme shura has also elected Sheikh Khalid Haqqani as the deputy chief of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.”
Shortly after the announcement of Fazlullah as TTP chief, the militant organization announced that it rejected the idea of any further peace talks with the government. The TTP accused the government of playing a double game with it and said that it will continue its struggle to enforce Shariah rule in Pakistan.
Analysts say that Fazlullah the most favoured choice because of his hardline credentials and also the fact that the TTP is seen to be making an effort to stop groups within the organization from leaving it. There were fears that the TTP would split up into smaller groups after the death of Hakimullah Mehsud.
Imtiaz Gul, an author and expert on militancy in Pakistan, warned the choice of such an uncompromising candidate would spell problems for the embryonic peace process — and a bloodier campaign from the TTP. “It means they are not serious about any talks with the government,” Gul said.
“TTP will be more brutal now.” During Fazlullah’s rule in Swat, the Taliban enforced a rigorous version of Islamic law, publicly beheading and flogging wrongdoers and burning schools.
(With agency inputs)