MIRANSHAH/PESHAWAR, Pakistan, (Reuters) – The Pakistani Taliban rejected the idea of peace talks with the government after electing hardline commander Mullah Fazlullah, whose men shot schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai last year, as their new leader yesterday.
The rise of Fazlullah, known for his fierce Islamist views, by the Taliban Shura council follows the Killing of Hakimullah Mehsud, the previous leader or ameer, in a U.S. drone strike on Nov. 1.
Mehsud and his allies had been tentatively open to the concept of ceasefire talks with the government, but Fazlullah’s emergence as the new chief changes that picture.
“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 neighbouring Afghanistan.
“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.”
The Pakistani Taliban insurgency is fighting to topple Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government and impose Sharia law in the nuclear-armed nation.
Attacks have been on the rise since Sharif came to power in May promising a negotiated end to violence, a concern for global powers already unnerved by the possible security implications of the withdrawal of most U.S.-led troops from Afghanistan in 2014.
No meaningful talks have taken place since Sharif’s election and Fazlullah’s rise could signal the start of a new period of uncertainty and violence in the already unstable region.