A leading Pakistani daily, The Express Tribune (ET), which is published in collaboration with The New York Times, is running an on-line poll these days. The readers are asked: Will Fazlullah's death lead to better Pak-Afghan relations?
Fazlullah, known as Radio Mullah, and butcher of Swat (a tourist jewel of Pakistan) was killed by an American drone on June 13. He was the chief (Ameer) of Pakistan Taliban. Majority of the reader-participants in the ET survey do not think his assassination would lead to any perceptible change. Naysayers are almost 41 per cent.
Pakistani military spokesman however thinks that the elimination of the Fazal Hayat, known by his pseudonym Fazlullah, augured well for joint efforts with the United States to usher in peace in the war-ravaged Afghanistan. This assertion fits in well with the Pakistani narrative that Fazlullah was an Indian and Afghan stooge and that he was after soft targets in Pakistan to please his Indian and Afghan spy masters.
But the Americans have a different take. They are taking full credit for ending Fazlullah saga; this is understandable though. The US has put a $ 5 million reward on his head; it has also been targeting Jamaat-ul Ahrar, a breakaway Pakistan Taliban faction.
So the American contention is that a brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy. Appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Alice Wells (Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs) said Pakistan is still 'on notice'.
The US expects "unequivocal cooperation" in ending the sanctuaries of Taliban (in Pakistan) that the Taliban have enjoyed since the remnants of their toppled regime fled into Pakistan in 2001", she said but softened the blow by chipping in the remark that Pakistan could play an important role in the Afghan peace process.
For the uninitiated in Pakistani ways, and its use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy, the Fazlullah story is abracadabra. Even to me also.
The links between various terrorist groups operating in and for Pakistan and their connections with the ISI, the intelligence agency started by a British general at the behest of President Ayub Khan some sixty decades ago, are like the shell companies a businessman floats to hide his transactions from the tax man.
If the Isle of Man, a self-governing British Crown dependency, has emerged as a favourite tax haven, Pakistan's tribal belt of North and South Waziristan on the border with Afghanistan has become the preferred home for local Islamist militants and foreign - Arab, African and Central Asian militant mercenaries under the patronage of ISI.
To these groups belongs Maulana Fazlullah. He started off as a leader of Pakistani Islamist group, Tehrek-i-Nehfaz Shariat-i-Mohammedi (TNSM) led by Maulana Sufi Mohammed, who was his father-in-law and mentor as well. And moved on to become a close ally of Mullah Omar, the one-eyed supreme commander of Afghan Taliban. ISI had a direct hold on TNSM through Sufi Mohammed, according to media reports of the day.
Omar, like Osama bin Laden before him, was a darling of the ISI and lived as a guest of Pakistani agency at the head of Quetta Shura (leadership council based in the city of Quetta, the capital of impoverished Balochistan province that borders Afghanistan and Iran) till his death.
To cut a long story short, Fazlullah owed his leadership of Pakistan Taliban, also known as Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), to Mullah Omar. His takeover was engineered by ISI through Omar, who brokered peace amongst warring TSNM tribal leaders and made them fall in line.
Besides close linkages Fazlullah enjoyed with the Afghan Taliban, what counted in his favour was the fact that he was someone not from Pakistan's volatile tribal belt - or from the Mehsud or Wazir tribes. He grew up in the mountainous Swat valley in what is now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province. Both factors made him appear as amenable to Rawalpindi plans for the Kabul theatre.
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