Mullah Fazlullah: The hardliner elected as Pakistan Taliban’s new leader

They call him ‘Mullah Radio’ and his message is clear: there will be no more talk with the regime

Asia Correspondent

The Pakistan Taliban has rejected the prospect of peace talks after electing as its new leader the notorious hardline militant who ordered the attack which almost killed schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.

Six days after their previous leader was killed in a CIA drone strike in North Waziristan, the Pakistan Taliban has announced that Mullah Fazlullah, also known as “Mullah Radio” for his fiery radio sermons, had been selected as the new chief.

Reports said that the Taliban leadership council selected Fazlullah at an undisclosed location in the North Waziristan tribal area after days of deliberation. Fighters fired automatic weapons into the air to celebrate the decision.

“Fazlullah is the new Pakistan Taliban chief,” a spokesman told Reuters. “The decision was taken at a shura meeting today [Thursday]. There will be no more talks as Mullah Fazlullah is already against negotiations with the Pakistan government.”

The new commander led the Taliban’s iron-fisted domination of Pakistan’s Swat Valley between 2007-2009, when girls’ schools were closed and destroyed and suspected informants flogged and beheaded in the street.

The former tourist haven was eventually recaptured following failed negotiations and then a bloody operation by the army. Fazlullah was forced across the border into eastern Afghanistan where he has set up base, from which he has conducted repeated attacks. Recent reports said his fighters were active in the Afghan provinces of Nuristan and Kunar.

A former chair-lift operator, Fazlullah became known as Radio Mullah after he started delivering illegal, fiery radio sermons, broadcast via FM radio in the Swat Valley. Sometimes he would announce his fatwas and orders for executions over the air waves.

He is held responsible for attacks on both soft and high-profile targets, including the killing of Maj Gen Sanaullah Khan Niazi in September, struck by a roadside bomb close to the Afghan border.

Iqbal Khattak, a journalist and analyst based in the city of Peshawar, said it was unclear whether Fazlullah would try to run the Pakistan Taliban from inside Afghanistan or whether he would try and return across the border.

Among Fazlullah’s darkest deeds was his order for the assassination attempt on the schoolgirl activist, Malala Yousafzai, who had written an anonymous blog on the BBC website about life in the valley under Taliban rule. Later, she became an outspoken campaigner for girls’ education.

“We had no intentions to kill her but were forced when she would not stop speaking against us,” a Taliban spokesman said last year after two men were recruited to find and kill her.

The election of Fazlullah follows the killing of the Pakistan Taliban’s previous leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, who was hit in a US drone strike on his compound in the tribal areas last Friday.

There had been various reports about who might replace Mehsud and, while Fazlullah was among those named, he was not necessarily the favourite. As it is, Fazlullah, aged in his late 30s, is the first leader of the Pakistani Taliban not to come from the Mehsud tribe, based in the South Waziristan tribal area.

The killing of Mehsud took place on the eve of a meeting between Muslim clerics representing the Pakistani prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, and members of the Taliban. Government ministers denounced the strike, though Mr Sharif, who had been elected in May having campaigned for talks with the militants, has been noticeably silent.

Observers said Fazlullah has a reputation for ruthlessness. His father-in-law, another cleric and militant, Sufi Muhammad, is currently being held in Pakistan on terrorism charges.

“If you go by his ideological positions when he was holding the fort in the Swat valley, he was quite hardline,” Mr Khattak told The Independent. “More so than his father-in-law.”

Talat Masood, an analyst and former Pakistani general, said the appointment of Fazlullah was intended to send a message.

“I think the message the Taliban is sending is very clear. They have elected a leader who is supposed to be very aggressive,” said Mr Masood. “We have had a very tough experience with him. They are sending a message that there is no question of a dialogue process. They are going to launch attacks and Pakistan will have to respond.”

A new leader – but still the same, violent Taliban  

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
filmReview: Sometimes the immersive experience was so good it blurred the line between fiction and reality
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices