5 years, 8 months ago
PESHAWAR: Maulana Fazlullah, one of the most wanted Taliban leaders, has told the BBC that he has escaped to Afghanistan and is planning new attacks on Pakistani forces.
Fazlullah was said by officials to have been wounded or killed in July, during the operation in Swat.
‘I have reached Afghanistan safely,’ he told BBC Urdu. ‘We are soon going to launch full-fledged punitive raids against the army in Swat.’
The BBC reporter in Peshawar who spoke to the Taliban leader said the voice was recognisably Fazlullah’s — he has a very distinct way of pronouncing words. ‘I have spoken to him on several occasions and met him twice.’
Fazlullah was calling from an Afghan number and sounded in good spirits when he called on Monday.
He issued a warning to the North-West Frontier Province’s Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain and said his fate would be like that of Najibullah, the Afghan president who was captured and hanged by Taliban in 1996.
Recall that when examining the issue of focus on Afghanistan versus Pakistan I observed:
The conversation on Pakistan versus Afghanistan presupposes that the Durand Line means anything, and that the Taliban and al Qaeda respect an imaginary boundary cut through the middle of the Hindu Kush. It doesn’t and they don’t. If our engagement of Pakistan is to mean anything, we must understand that they are taking their cue from us, and that our campaign is pressing the radicals from the Afghanistan side while their campaign is pressing them from the Pakistani side.
Advocating disengagement from Afghanistan is tantamount to suggesting that one front against the enemy would be better than two, and that one nation involved in the struggle would be better than two (assuming that Pakistan would keep up the fight in our total absence, an assumption for which I see no basis). It’s tantamount to suggesting that it’s better to give the Taliban and al Qaeda safe haven in Afghanistan as Pakistan presses them from their side, or that it’s better to give them safe haven in Pakistan while we press them from our side. Both suggestions are preposterous.
This isn’t about nation-states and imaginary boundaries. When we think this way we do err in that we superimpose a Western model on a region of the world where it doesn’t apply. This is about a transnational insurgency, and it’s never better to give the enemy more land, more latitude, more space, more people, more money, and more safety. Any arguments to this effect are mistaken at a very fundamental level.
It’s an inconvenient truth, that the demarcation of countries doesn’t mean anything to the extremists. The objection (to the campaign for Afghanistan) that we should focus on Pakistan where the hard line Taliban and AQ are located is a canard, and the escape of Fazlullah demonstrates it all over again. The best way to pressure the extremists is to do it from the Afghan side, avoiding the messy interference in a sovereign nation (Pakistan) while also ensuring them that we are serious about our commitment.