Pakistani Taliban chief vows fight for Sharia

In video appearance, Mullah Fazlullah throws peace talks with government into disarray with apparent declaration of war.

Islamabad, Pakistan – In a rare video appearance, the chief of the Pakistani Taliban has declared that his group will continue to fight the state until Islamic law is enforced across the country, apparently scuppering the possibility of scheduled peace talks with the government.

“We have accepted Allah’s writ and his power, and the Pakistan army, intelligence agencies and government must also accept Allah’s writ,” said Mullah Fazlullah while addressing a group of about two dozen fighters.

The video was released by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s media wing on Sunday and is the first appearance by the TTP chief since November 2013.

It shows Fazlullah arriving at what appears to be a TTP training camp in a mountainous area.

About two dozen fighters, armed with automatic rifles, pistols and rocket-propelled grenades are visible in the video, which also shows them firing their weapons.

“Those fighters who are with us, they are there. But those who have fallen out of contact, they should be in contact with their district commanders. Every fighter should prepare themselves to face tanks, artillery and army camps,” Fazlullah said, in an apparent call to arms.

“Our jihad will continue until that moment that either Sharia is established, or we embrace martyrdom.”

Fazlullah was elected leader of the TTP after his predecessor, Hakimullah Mehsud, was killed in a US drone strike in November last year. 

He has, however, exercised weak control over the group, which has seen dozens of its fighters killed in infighting in Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal area in recent weeks.

Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said the message made it clear Fazlullah is not going to pursue talks with the government.

“There is a serious rift among the Taliban,” he said. “The Pakistani government is saying that as there is a split, any group that does not want to talk will be isolated.” 

The statement from the TTP chief has thrown into doubt the future of planned dialogue between the TTP and government negotiators, scheduled to be held this week.

On Friday, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, the interior minister, said that the next meeting between the two sides would be “result-oriented”.

“The government has just one agenda: that there should be peace according to Pakistan’s law and constitution,” he said at a press conference.

The government’s talks process with the Taliban has been ongoing since February 2014, but while several meetings have been held by negotiators appointed by both sides, there has been little concrete progress.

Follow Asad Hashim on Twitter: @AsadHashim

Source: Al Jazeera