ISLAMABAD: The selection of Mullah Fazlullah as the chief of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) could not have been possible without the backing of Mullah Mohammad Omar, chief of the Afghan Taliban, a report published in the Friday edition of The News International quoted sources as saying.
Hailing from the Swat district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fazlullah is the first non-Mehsud chief of the TTP, unlike Baitullah and Hakimullah Mehsud who hailed from the Waziristan region of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). Sources quoted in the story said the reason behind the decision was to avoid a possible split within the banned militant organisation.
An interesting point of note is that the official announcement of Fazlullah’s appointment as the new chief was made over the telephone by TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid from Afghanistan.
The underlying impression given by Shahid was that a meeting of the Taliban council (or shura) was held in Afghanistan as its last meeting held in North Waziristan was where a US drone strike had killed Hakimullah Mehsud.
According to sources quoted in the report, the 17-member central shura held several sessions for three days to reach a consensus on appointing a new chief as up to six commanders were vying for the position. The deadlock was however broken by Mullah Omar, considered “Ameerul Momineen” by the TTP, who stepped in and named Fazlullah as the man for the job.
Fazlullah is said to have a closer relationship with Mullah Omar than any other member of the TTP and carries a five million rupees bounty on his head which was announced by the Pakistani government.
His appointment is considered a major win for the anti-talks proponents within the TTP as Fazlullah has been the most vocal member to oppose talks with the Pakistani government.