Maulana Fazlullah, a Taliban commander in Pakistan’s notoriously lawless Swat region, is a frontrunner in the race to succeed Hakimullah Mehsud as the organization’s national leader. Fazlullah gained global notoriety after members of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), under his command, carried out an unsuccessful hit on Nobel Prize nominee Malala Yousufzai – a move that also painted him as a “true believer” among international terror cells.
The 39-year-old militant, nicknamed “Radio Mullah” for his hate-filled broadcasts, is well-known for his strict enforcement of Sharia Law. On the air, he touches on a wide variety of topics, from the evils of music and female education to conspiracies about the polio vaccine.
“[Fazlullah told] listeners that the shot could cause impotency and was a conspiracy of the Jews and Christians to stunt the population growth of Muslims,” reported The New York Times.
The Times added that, although Fazlullah has been targeted by U.S. and NATO soldiers in Afghanistan – his current base of operations after being pushed across the border – Pakistani government officials claim that he is being aided by Afghan intelligence officers.
There are two main candidates to fill the vacancy of TTP leader, which opened courtesy of a U.S. drone strike that killed Mehsud last Friday. Cleric Hafiz Saeed, the TTP’s head in Orakzai, has widespread support in his region and poses the biggest competition to Fazlullah.
“Both are widely liked in the Taliban circles for their armed struggle for implementation of Sharia in their respective areas,” one unnamed Taliban commander in Pakistan told The News. He also said that the process for choosing a successor wouldn’t be done by a majority vote, adding “we consider democracy an un-Islamic practice.” The new TTP leader will instead be chosen by a senior member after listening to arguments for each candidate.
Malala Yousufzai, the 16-year-old girls’ education advocate who literally took a bullet for her cause, became the youngest Nobel Peace Prize nominee last month. Although she didn’t win the prize, her story has inspired countless people across the globe while shining a light on education inequality in Pakistan.
Earlier this month, Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said that the Taliban remains intent on eliminating Malala.
“She is not a brave girl and has no courage. We will target her again and attack whenever we have a chance,” he said. “She accepted that she attacked Islam so we tried to kill her, and if we get another chance we will definitely kill her and that will make us feel proud. Islam prohibits killing women, but except those that support the infidels in their war against our religion.”
The result of the TTP “election” is expected to be made public by the end of the day.