Islamabad: Pakistani Taliban Thursday appointed Mullah Fazalullah as their new chief six days after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike.
Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told the media by phone that Fazalullah was appointed by senior commanders at their meeting at a secret location in North Waziristan, Xinhua reported.
Fazalullah, who headed a bloody campaign against the security forces in northwestern Swat Valley in 2008-2009, later fled to Afghanistan and regrouped his fighters there.
Pakistani security officials said Fazalullah, also known as Mullah Radio, is operating from Afghanistan’s Nuristan province and has carried out several attacks on Pakistani forces in border regions.
Analysts said the appointment of Fazalullah could complicate the proposed dialogue process with the government as he is considered one of the hardliners among the Pakistani Taliban. His men shot and wounded Yousafzai last year because of her campaign to promote education among women in Swat, one of Pakistan’s most conservative areas.
A tribal affairs expert, Mehmood Shah said the security forces had defeated Fazalullah in 2009 during a major operation and dialogue with him could not be held.
The Pakistani government has, on several occasions, demanded that the Afghan government hand over Fazalullah. The Afghan government, however, has never officially confirmed his presence in Nuristan.
Commanders from other tribal regions also attended the meeting presided over by Asmatullah Shaheen, head of the central council of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Taliban spokesman said.
The new chief’s appointment was delayed due to Taliban’s internal differences over the issue as there had been several strong aspirants for the top position.
The Taliban had denied differences and cited some logistical problems in the gathering of the members of the central council to elect a new chief.
It ruled out the possibility of the long-awaited talks with the government following the death of their leader, Hakimullah Mehsud. The Taliban leaders said the government has “failed” to stop the US drone strikes.
The Pakistani government had angrily reacted to the Nov 1 drone attack and termed it as a move to scuttle the peace process with the Taliban.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in the US drone attack has caused serious tension with Washington.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, however, said his government would pursue the dialogue process with the Taliban to stop more bloodshed in the country.