The news channels across the globe were running the headlines on Friday on the death of Hakimullah Mehsud, Chief of the banned Tehrik-e-Taliban, Pakistan (TTP) in a drone air strike in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. He was targeted and killed with four other militants, as they were traveling in a car near the border with Afghanistan.
Reports from the Dawn Newspaper state that Mehsud, who was under a $5 million US government bounty first came into public prominence after orchestrating audacious raids against the Pakistan Army.
According to these reports, Hakimullah's birth name is Zulfiqar. He was initially a bodyguard to Baitullah Mehsud, his predecessor and founder of the umbrella group Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, and later became his close aide. He was also appointed as a spokesman for Baitullah and succeeded him as leader after the latter was killed in a drone strike in August 2009.
In his early life, Hakimullah received basic education at a madrassah in a village in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Hangu district. It was only in 2007 after the capture of 300 Pakistani soldiers that his name and prestige among the Taliban rose dramatically.
He was made the Taliban commander in the districts of Khyber, Orakzai and Kurram and was regarded as the mastermind behind the attacks on Nato supply lines in the tribal region.
In 2010, Hakimullah appeared alongside a Jordanian militant in a farewell video in which the latter claimed responsibility for a suicide attack in Afghanistan in which seven CIA agents were killed.
Under Hakimullah, the Taliban formed complex alliances with other extremist militant groups spread across Pakistan.
The Pakistani government said Saturday it would not allow the death of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike to derail proposed peace talks.
Federal Information Minister Pervez Rashid told reporters in Islamabad that the government wanted to press ahead with its plan to negotiate with Mehsud’s Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
“We can say that this time drone struck the peace talks but we will not let the peace talks die,” Rasheed said.
The Afghan Taliban on Saturday described the killing of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud as “a big loss” and urged Islamabad to prevent any further U.S. drone strikes.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan strongly condemns this terror act by America and describes the martyrdom of Mullah Hakimullah Mehsud as a big loss,” the Taliban said in a statement, using the group's formal name.
Meanwhile, a spokesman of al Qaeda and Afghan Taliban-backed Haqqani Network vowed to avenge the US for killing Hakimullah Mehsud.
The United States blames the Haqqani network, a faction of the Taliban waging a twelve year insurgency in Afghanistan, for a series of high-profile attacks in recent years. The militant outfit was founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a mujahideen leader against Soviet troops in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Following are some observations:
Mehsud's death will impact the efforts to negotiate peace with the Taliban. They would show defiance against any peace effort accusing the United States and Pakistan of colluding against them.
The Taliban backed militants will show their anger by initiating terrorist attacks within Pakistan against the army, police, security agencies and innocent civilians.
The drone airstrikes have eliminated a top militant commander who personally supervised the senseless killing of several thousand innocent women, children and bystanders. His death therefore will bring no remorse for Pakistan.
The Taliban will regroup after appointing a new chief of the TTP. There will be no respite in their terrorist campaign. With the beefing up of security on government installations, they will turn their guns towards the soft vulnerable targets; the market places and residential areas.
The Taliban have never shown any serious inclination to reach any sort of peace agreement with Pakistan or the United States. Their conditions and demands for dialogue have been unrealistic, for example implementation of Islamic system of government in Pakistan.
The people of Pakistan have no sympathy for Taliban owing to their extremism.
The Taliban receive funding, weapons and training from across the western and eastern borders of Pakistan. They employ techniques of extortion, training, torture and enticement to lure young men and transform them into squads of suicide bombers. They operate like the drug lords branding ultra-sophisticated weaponry, money and men.
After the withdrawal of the U.S. Troops and Nato from Afghanistan in 2014, the Taliban are likely to foment trouble in the region, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan. Elimination of Hakimullah Mehsud does not herald an end to terrorism, but is a set back to the organization at least in the short term.
Dawn Newspaper November 1 & 2, 2013.