News / Asia

New Leader Of Pakistani Taliban Could Splinter Group

Mullah Fazlullah, the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban  (AP Photo/SITE Intel Group)
Mullah Fazlullah, the new leader of the Pakistani Taliban (AP Photo/SITE Intel Group)
Kokab FarshoriNafees Takar
— The suspected U.S. drone strike that killed the leader of Pakistan’s Taliban (Tehrik-i-Taliban), Hakimullah Mehsud, has set off a power struggle within the militant group, and has exposed sharp divisions that analysts say could further destabilize the region as NATO combat forces leave neighboring Afghanistan in 2014.

Taliban sources and local journalists in turbulent North Waziristan and South Waziristan in Pakistan told VOA that the selection of hardline cleric Mullah Fazlullah as the new chief has left the group in disarray that may result in a splintering to smaller, difficult-to-control factions.

Fazlullah was selected by a council of Pakistani Taliban leaders after the death of its chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, November 1.  Fazlullah, who reportedly has the support of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, became known as ‘Mullah Radio’ for his fiery anti-Western and pro-jihadist speeches on FM radio in the Swat Valley of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province between 2007 and 2009   Exploiting anti-government sentiment in his home region and using brutal tactics, Fazlullah took control of the Swat Valley and instituted harsh Islamic rule that terrorized much of the population.  

But in 2009, Pakistan's army launched an operation against militants in the area. Wounded in the fighting, Fazlullah managed to escape to Afghanistan, where analysts and journalists say he remains to this day.  In 2012 he claimed responsibility for ordering the failed assassination of the teenage activist, Malala Yousufzai, for her efforts to educate girls in Swat.

Fazlullah could raise tribal tensions

The Pakistani Taliban has denied that Fazlullah’s selection will lead to rifts among its ranks.  But Pakistani defense analyst and former Lt. General Talat Masood told VOA in an interview  that Fazlullah’s selection could cause divisions because he is not a member of the large Mehsud tribal group that dominates the region, and that has led the Pakistani Taliban until now.  

“After the killing of the TTP leader in a drone attack, it was expected that differences would emerge on the selection of the new Taliban chief,” Masood said.

The Pakistani Taliban has denied that the selection of Fazlullah will lead to rifts among its ranks.

The suspected drone strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud took place in the war-ravaged Waziristan region near the Afghan border.  The area is home to the Mehsud tribe, and about 80,000 Mehsud families have been displaced as a result of the fighting.

VOA Deewa reporter Adnan Bitani says the Mehsud tribe has borne the brunt of government offensives against the Taliban, and many now say the selection of an outsider to head the Taliban may ease tensions with the Pakistani army.  But he also says Mehsud Taliban supporters are upset that an outsider has taken control of the group they have long dominated.  

“But those who are stakeholders in the militancy, they have expressed concerns over shifting of the Taliban leadership from the Mehsud tribe to a man out of their tribe and clan,” Bitani said.  

Saleem Mehsud, a journalist from South Waziristan who is based in Islamabad, said no one doubts Fazlullah’s militancy but it remains unclear if he can command tribal allegiances.  “Mullah Fazlullah is known for his anti-Pakistan stand.  He might have the support of the followers of Hakimullah Mehsud, but he might not gain support of all the Mehsuds.”

Negotiation efforts end in violence

Analysts say Fazlullah's selection represents the victory of the most extremist elements in the Pakistani Taliban.  He claimed responsibility for the assassination of a senior army general in September, just as the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was preparing to open talks with the Taliban.

Fazlullah also threatened to kill army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.  Analysts say with his appointment there is little or no chance of talks.  

But former general Masood says Fazlullah could prove to be ineffective as a militant leader because he is believed to be based in Afghanistan’s Nuristan or Kunar provinces.

“If he communicates via phone, he would be monitored by Pakistan or the U.S. and can be arrested.”

Kabul has long denied that Fazlullah operates from Afghanistan.

Masood says it is still unclear whether Fazlullah will try to join Pakistani Taliban militants in North Waziristan or even whether local militants there will offer the same support they offered Hakimullah Mehsud.  Masood also says if that does not happen, Mullah Fazlullah will have few options, because his home region of Swat is now under the firm control of Pakistan’s military.

You May Like

China Investigates Former Powerful Security Chief

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, under investigation for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid