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
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Sport
Wayne Rooney talks to the media during a press conference
sport
Arts and Entertainment
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
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

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Reception Teachers needed for September 2014

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Re...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?