The South Asia Channel

Pakistani Taliban choose new leader

Pakistani Taliban choose new leader

Meet Mullah Fazlullah, the new Taliban commander

The Pakistani Taliban have picked Mullah Fazlullah, head of a militant faction in northwestern Swat Valley, as their new commander (NYT, Pajhwok, Dawn). After six days of deliberations, the Pakistani Taliban settled on Fazlullah, who is known for ordering public beatings, executions, and beheadings, and delivering "thunderous" radio broadcasts that have earned him the nickname "Mullah Radio." Falzlullah was also the commander responsible for the Taliban’s attack on Malala Yousafzai, the teenage Pakistani education activist who was a Nobel Peace prize favorite last month (NYT). Fazlullah has been an enemy of the Pakistani military for years; he escaped the army’s toughest anti-Taliban offensive in recent years when he escaped thousands of soldiers descending on Swat and fled to Afghanistan in 2009. His fighters also killed a two-star army general in Dir district in September.

Fazlullah was not the favorite coming into the leadership council deliberations, but members of the Mehsud tribe, which has dominated the leadership of the Pakistani Taliban since 2007, has been dramatically thinned by the CIA drone campaign. His predecessor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed by a drone strike on November 1 and many say his death, and now the appointment of Fazllullah, signal an end to any hopes for peace talks between the Pakistani government and Taliban. Fazlullah’s spokesman, Shahidullah Shahid, said on Thursday that there would be "no more talks as Mullah Fazlullah is already against negotiations."

On Friday, Asmatullah Shaheen, a member of the Taliban leadership council, warned Reuters that the Taliban will conduct a wave of attacks against the government in retaliation for Mehsud’s death (Reuters). He said they would target security forces, government installations, political leaders, and police in retaliatory attacks.

From Pakistan with love

BBC reported on Thursday that Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects and might be able to obtain bombs at will, according to their sources (BBC). Although the story of Saudi Arabia’s attempts to acquire nuclear warheads goes back decades, a senior NATO official said that intelligence reports suggested that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan are ready for delivery to Saudi Arabia now.

Allegations of the Saudi-Pakistani nuclear deal have been circulating since the 1990’s but were always denied. In 2003, a leaked paper by senior Saudi officials laid out three responses to the nuclear threat in Iran: acquire nuclear weapons, enter into an agreement with another nuclear power to protect Saudi Arabia, or rely on the establishment of a nuclear-free Middle East. Recent statements by BBC sources have said that the first two of these options are both very real possibilities. Unconfirmed reports of istan delivering Shaheen mobile ballistic missiles to Saudi Arabia without the warheads suggest that Saudi Arabia has an ability to deploy nuclear weapons in the kingdom. Providing nuclear bombs to a foreign government would create enormous political problems for Pakistan, who has signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Incriminating audio

A British military court has released audio clips from a video that appear to document the killing of a captured Afghan militant by a Royal Marine sergeant (BBC, Pajhwok). The audio records a conversation between three Royal Marines as they patrol an area to assess the damage following a helicopter attack in Helmand province in 2011. They allegedly found an injured Afghan insurgent who they dragged into the nearby wooded area and shot. One soldier asks, "Anybody want to do first aid on this idiot?"  A single gunshot and groans from the militant can be heard in the recording. One soldier can be heard saying, "There you are. Shuffle off this mortal coil…. It’s nothing you wouldn‘t do to us. Obviously this doesn‘t go anywhere fellas, I just broke the Geneva Convention."

Roadside attacks

 A NATO supply truck was attacked as it made its way to Afghanistan through Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region of Khyber Agency on Friday (Pajhwok). The driver was wounded when gunman opened fired on the vehicle. Local officials are attributing the attack to militants in the region.

 At least eight civilians, mostly women and children, were killed on Friday when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb near Qalat city in Zabul Province (RFE/RL, Pajhwok). The car was carrying five women, two children, and an elderly man who were believed to be from the same family. Provincial police chief Ghulam Sakhi Roghliwani blamed the Taliban for the attack.

One-two punch

Pakistan has become the newest member of the World Boxing Council, the Express Tribune reported on Friday, allowing Pakistani boxers to represent the country on the professional circuit for the first time in 66 years (ET).  In the past, top Pakistani boxers had to travel to England, the United States, and other countries to participate in professional sporting events, but the creation of the new Pakistan Professional Boxing League and its affiliation with the council means international professional boxing matches can now be held at home.  Pakistan is making its professional debut as a country at the 51st World Boxing Council Convention in Thailand, which began on Thursday.  

  — Emily Schneider