Fazlullah helps India in feeding terrorism in Pakistan
Maulana Fazlullah is son-in-law of Maulana Sufi Muhammad who had founded Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM), which was banned by Pakistan government. He belongs to Babukarkhel clan of Yusafzai tribe of Swat district. On January 12, 2002, he became the leader of TNSM since Sufi had been put behind bars. In 2006, he started broadcasting his fiery speeches twice a day in Swat Valley, preaching virtue and exhorting the people to abstain from vices. While condemning western systems, he stated that imposition of Islamic laws was the sole cure for all the evils in the society. As his audience grew in size, he started taking practical action against so-called evil doers by torching electronic and video shops arguing that dance and music were major sins. His armed men threatened barbers not to shave beards and were forced to close their shops. Mujras and singing were disallowed. He opposed anti-polio drive in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa saying that it was western conspiracy to make Muslims impotent. He barred women from taking part in education and imposed ban on female education in Swat district. Some 400 schools enrolling 4000 girls were shut down and 170 schools were blown up or burnt. He had also ordered death of Malala Yusafzai simply because she spoke in favor of education of girls. She was shot at from a point blank range on October 9, 2012 but she miraculously survived.
Once Fazlullah gained popularity and earned the nickname of ‘Mullah Radio’, he urged the people to donate money and help him in introducing Islamic system so that they could get speedy and cheap justice. Gullible women donated their jewelry. He also started collecting money through extortion and kidnapping for ransom to strengthen his financial position. From the ill-gotten wealth he collected, he constructed a Madrassa in Mingora worth Rs 25 crores, which became his base of operation and he used it for the purpose of training terrorists. He also opened training centres for preparing teenage boys as suicide bombers. Siege of Lal Masjid in Islamabad in July 2007 and its tragic ending propelled Fazlullah to forge an alliance with Baitullah Mehsud to consolidate his hold over Swat.
By mid 2007, Fazlullah was able to organize a 500 strong force to terrorize the people of Swat. He established a parallel government in 59 villages of Swat where Qazi courts functioned to enforce Shariah laws. He virtually made Swat into a State within a State. Police stations and Frontier Constabulary posts were frequently attacked. On November 3, 2007, 220 paramilitary soldiers and policemen deserted after a FC post and two police stations were overrun by Fazlullah’s militants. Worsening law and order situation impelled Musharraf government to order a military operation in Swat in November 2007 and restore order. Fazlullah hid himself and resurfaced after the Army withdrew. He once again restarted his anti-State activities and unleashed a reign of terror on the people of Swat and surrounding districts including Shangla, Upper Dir and Malakand. Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies kept pumping in weapons, ammunition, equipment and cash in huge quantity to enable Fazlullah to convert Swat into a formidable strong point.
During his black reign of terror from 2007 till April 2009, slaughter of captives, beheadings in public, floggings, kidnapping for ransom and suicide bombings became a norm. Green Square in Mingora earned the name of ‘Khooni Chowk’, where slaughtered or bullet ridden dead bodies were hung upside down almost every day. Fazlullah would demand from every family in Swat to hand over one young boy to join TNSM and one girl for marriage with a Taliban. He undertook barbaric acts to be able to impose his brand of hard-line Shariah on others.
After the second military operation in Swat in last quarter of 2008, peace deal was signed with Maulana Sufi and Fazlullah in February 2009. KP government agreed to introduce Nizam-e-Adal in Malakand District and the other side agreed to renounce violence. Hardly had the ink dried on the agreement when Fazllulah’s men opened new fronts in Buner and Lower Dir, which raised alarm bells that militants were working their way towards Islamabad. All political forces got together and passed a joint resolution to combat the militant threat with full force. It led to launching of military operation codenamed Rah-e-Rast on April 26, 2009.
By April 28, Lower Dir was retaken and Buner on May 5. By May 14, the attacking troops were 6 km south of Mingora. Battle of Mingora started on May 23 which ensued heavy fighting but by 27th 70% of the city was cleared and by 30th the whole of it. On 14 June, the entire Swat Valley was cleared of the presence of militants and the Army regained control over Swat. Well over 2000 militants were captured and handed over to the police for trials. It was unfortunate that none was convicted and punished. Released militants once again took to militancy. 1.7 million people displaced from Swat and nearby districts returned by August 22. On July 10, BBC reported that Fazlullah was critically injured and was near death bed. In November 2009, he told BBC service that he had escaped to Kunar and vowed to continue fighting Pak Army.
Afghan National Directorate of Security and RAW helped Fazlullah and his men to settle down in Kunar and Nuristan and provided all sorts of facilities to enable him to launch cross border attacks. By April 2011, he started sending his militants into Pakistan who attacked targets in Bajaur, Mehmand and Dir in their bid to clear their way to re-enter Swat through Dir. Subsequently, targets in Chitral were also hit. Despite Pakistan’s strong protests, Afghanistan took no measure to bridle Fazlullah and other absconding militant leaders like Faqir Muhammad and Khalid Khurasani who had fled from Bajaur and Mehmand Agencies respectively. Perforce GHQ had to deploy regular troops in Bajaur, Mehmand and Chitral to counter the threat. NATO helicopters came to the rescue of Fazlullah’s men on the night of November 26, 2011 when the infiltrators were fired upon by military post at Salala. On June 22, 2013, his militants kidnapped 17 soldiers and beheaded them. Fazlullah proudly claimed that his men had killed Maj Gen Sanaullah Niazi and two others on September 2013 at a time when environments were getting ripe to begin peace talks.
Appointment of absconding Fazlullah as new Ameer and his deputy Khalid Haqqani from Swabi, both not in favor of peace has strengthened the group of hardliners in TTP, which is to the advantage of India, Afghanistan and USA. Fazlullah with a criminal background will help India in feeding terrorism in Pakistan. As long as Fazlullah remains at the helms of affairs of TTP, hope of peace talks is a pipedream. (Asif Haroon Raja)