The Pakistani Taliban has vowed to orchestrate a wave of revenge attacks against government targets after naming commander Mullah Fazlullah as its new leader.
The threat on Friday came a week after Hakimullah Mehsud, the previous leader of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was killed in a US drone strike.
“We will target security forces, government installations, political leaders and police,” Asmatullah Shaheen, head of the Taliban shura, or leadership council, told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.
He said the Taliban’s main target included army and government installations in Punjab province, the political stronghold of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
“We have a plan. But I want to make one thing clear. We will not target civilians, bazaars or public places. People do not need to be afraid,” Shaheen added.
The TTP, an umbrella organisation grouping numerous armed factions, has killed tens of thousands of soldiers, police and civilians in its campaign against the Pakistani state since it was first established in 2007.
Peace process stalled
The killing of Mehsud on Friday came as government representatives prepared to meet the TTP with a view to opening peace talks.
But a spokesman of the group said Fazlullah’s appointment meant that negotiations were now off the table.
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“Holding of peace talks is not even an issue to discuss – this government has no authority, it is not a sovereign government, it is a slave, a slave of America. Holding peace talks is a waste of time,” spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said on Thursday.
Fazlullah led the Taliban’s brutal two-year rule in Pakistan’s northwestern valley of Swat from 2007 to 2009, before a military operation retook the area.
During his rule in Swat, the Taliban enforced a rigorous interpretation of Islamic law, publicly beheading and flogging wrongdoers and burning schools.
He gained publicity for running an anti-government radio station, coming to be known as “Mullah Radio” in the valley and beyond.
Following an increasingly bloody campaign to take control of the valley, the Pakistani government finally ceded control of the Swat Valley and allowed the implementation of Sharia law through an agreement in 2009.
That agreement also immediately broke down, however, when the Taliban attempted to expand the areas under their control, and Fazlullah was ousted after a violent military campaign that killed hundreds and displaced millions.
Since then, Fazlullah’s TTP had been operating from outside the Swat Valley, carrying out a series of targeted attacks against those who opposed them, including peace committee leaders and rights activists.
His group was also responsible for the attempt on schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai’s life in 2012.
Local Pakistani authorities say that Fazlullah has been operating over the past year from the Afghan province of Kunar, along the border with Pakistan.