By: Hamid Mir
ISLAMABAD: The mother of Malala Yousafzai was once a big fan of Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah like thousands of other Swati women. In the beginning, Maulana Fazlullah introduced himself as an Islamic reformer who was considered as a new Robin Hood of Swat. He used his illegal radio station against smoking, Naswar and drugs. Lots of women were so moved by what Fazlullah said that they gave him gold and money. The mother of Malala was shocked when Mualana Fazlullah announced that women cannot go to bazaar for shopping. Malala Yousafzai revealed inher book “I am Malala” that one day her father Zia Yousfzai jokingly said that “one good thing Fazlullah is doing is banning ladies and girls from going to Cheena bazaar, which saves us men money”. In reality, her father was very much disturbed on the rise of Fazlullah in Swat.
Malala gave many details about the new Tehrik-eTaliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Fazlullah in her recently-released book. Taliban announced a ban on the book when Hakimullah Mehsud was alive. Some columnists of Urdu newspapers and religious leaders also raised many objections on the book and claimed the book was against Islam and Pakistan but many disagreed. It is learnt that Malala and her father have asked their publisher to make some changes and corrections in the next edition of the book but nothing will be changed about Fazlullah. According to some sources close to Fazlullah, he is also a Yousafzai like Malala. He was the mastermind of the attack on the life of Malala last year. She said in the book that the influence of militants started increasing in the valley of Swat after the October 2005 earthquake. The government failed to help the earthquake victims because most of the roads and bridges had gone. The only rescue workers who came there were from Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-Mohammadi (TNSM), founded by Sufi Mohammad. He was in jail but his son-in-law Maulana Fazlullah was running the TNSM.
Malala briefly mentioned the relief work of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD) but she gave more details about Fazlullah who claimed that the earthquake was a warning from God. According to Malala, this young Radio Mullah was particularly popular in the remote areas where people remembered how the TNSM volunteers had helped them during the earthquake and the government was nowhere to be seen.
Malala also gave details about two turning points in the life of Fazlullah. One was the death of his brother Maulana Liaqat along with three sons in a US drone attack on a Madrassa in Bajaur in October 2006. More than 80 people were killed, including boys as young as 12, some of whom had come from Swat.
Ten days after this drone attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up in the army barracks at Dargai and killed 42 soldiers. Fazlullah became very aggressive after this incident. He denounced the Pakistani government officials as infidels on his radio. One of his favourite subjects was the injustice of the feudal system of the Khans. The poor people were happy to see the Khans getting their comeuppance. They saw Fazlullah as a kind of Robin Hood and believed that when Fazlullah took over, he would give the Khans’ land to the poor. Some of the Khans fled. Malala said: “My father was against Khanism but he said the Taliban were worse.”
The second turning point in the life of Fazlullah was a military operation in the Red Mosque of Islamabad in July 2007. Malala gave lot of details about this incident in the 10th chapter of her book.
Malala wrote on page 106 of her book that it was after the Red Mosque siege that the Swat Taliban changed. July 12th 2007 was her birthday. The same day Fazlullah gave a radio address that was quite different to his previous ones. He raged against the Red Mosque attack and vowed to avenge the death of Abdul Rashid Ghazi, who was killed in a military operation along with his ailing mother. Fazlullah declared a war on the Pakistani government.
According to Malala, this was the start of real trouble. Fazlullah could now carry out his threats and mobilise support for the Taliban in the name of Red Mosque. A few days later, they attacked an army convoy travelling to Swat and killed 13 soldiers. The father of Malala was very outspoken against the Taliban. One day her father was threatened by a colleague of Fazlullah on the radio. Malala was very much worried about her father.
Her father started sleeping at one of his friend’s house to protect his family in case the Taliban came for him. Her father couldn’t bear the thought of being killed in front of his family. The mother of Malala started sleeping with a knife under her pillow. Malala made a plan that if the Taliban came, she will sneak into the toilet and will call the police. Her brother discussed digging a tunnel. Malala said that she prayed for a magic wand to make the Taliban disappear. One day, she saw her little brother digging furiously in the garden. When she asked what he was doing, the little brother said, “Making a grave”. Fazlullah forced her family to think about coffins and graves. The Taliban bulldozed both the Pashtun values and values of Islam.
Malala also mentioned about the famous interview she gave to me for Geo Television in 2009 and the same day a local reporter of Geo TV, Musa Khan Khel, was assassinated in Swat.
She accepted in her book that she and her father were supporters of peace talks with the Taliban. The ANP government in the province struck a deal with the Taliban in 2009.The government had agreed to impose the Sharia law in Swat and in return the militants would stop fighting. Taliban also released a kidnapped Chinese engineer as a peace gesture but Geo TV reporter Musa Khan Khel was killed by unknown people within a few hours of the signing of the peace agreement. Nobody accepted the responsibility of his killing. Malala clearly wrote on page 141 of her book: “Not everyone was happy about the deal. Our American allies were furious.” She said the Americans were worried that the deal meant surrender.
Malala criticised the US drone attacks very clearly in her book but her critics still believe that she is working on some American agenda. She asked her publisher to add words “peace be upon him”(PBUH) to the name of Holy Prophet Muhammad and remove some lines that gave an impression of supporting Salman Rushdie. All this cannot make Fazlullah happy but Malala still believes in peace talks. Both Fazlullah and Malala believe in the same God. According to Malala, “I love my God. I thank my Allah. I talk to him all day. He is the greatest.” But Fazlullah wants to kill her because she supports education for girls. According to the last line of her book, “I am Malala. My world has changed but I have not.” Fazlullah also refused to change. He is not ready for peace talks with the government. He will keep fighting. All those who still want talks with him must read “I am Malala”. At least they can understand Fazlullah from the eyes of a little girl.