Pakistani Taliban picks Mullah Fazlullah as new leader


An armed Pakistani Taliban chats with residents in Buner district of the troubled Swat valley on April 23, 2009.



The Pakistani Taliban picked Mullah Fazlullah, the Swat Valley cleric who ordered the shooting of schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai in 2012, to be their next leader.

His predecessor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a US drone strike on Nov. 1.

Fazlullah, the head of the Swat Valley faction of the Taliban that imposed strict Islamic law on the region in 2009, is the first leader to be chosen from outside the Mehsud or Wazir tribes.

Considered a hardliner even within the Taliban, Fazlullah didn’t take long to make his first move: canceling peace talks with Pakistan.

"There will be no more talks as Mullah Fazlullah is already against negotiations with the Pakistan government," Shahidullah Shahid, a Taliban spokesman, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location in Afghanistan on Thursday.

"All governments play double games with us. In the name of peace talks, they deceived us and killed our people. We are one hundred percent sure that Pakistan fully supports the United States in its drone strikes," Shahid said.

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The 39-year-old Fazlullah, nicknamed “Mullah Radio,” first attracted attention 10 years ago when he began to deliver daily messages on illegal FM radio frequencies. His sermons condemned the Americans, the Pakistani government, female education and the polio vaccine and promoted an extreme interpretation of Sharia law.

Fazullah has claimed responsibility for ordering the killing of Pakistani Army officer Maj.-Gen. Sanaullah Niazi in September. He fought in Afghanistan in 2001 and is reported to be close to the Afghan Taliban.

A BBC correspondent who met Fazlullah in 2009 in the Tirah Valley told BBC News: "He has a forceful personality, very serious and radical. He was friendly, but absolutely committed to communicating his cause.”