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Mullah Fazlullah: Will Pakistan be able to neutralize him?

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Where is Radio Mullah? Is he alive or dead? These two questions are now doing the rounds among the civil and military establishments of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US because the man has suddenly become the most crucial factor in the Afghanistan-Pakistan cauldron, overshadowing for the time being the Haqqani network and the internecine strife-torn Afghan Taliban.

Both the Pakistani and the US establishments think that he is the principal brain behind the recent mayhem at Charsadda’s Bacha Khan University.

Mullah Fazlullah is the chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP). In considerable stretches of the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), as well as to the NATO forces, he is popularly known as Radio Mullah for the shrill and vituperative fundamentalist Islamic broadcasts he has carried out over his illegal FM transmitter for quite a few years. There is also a great deal of confusion over recent media reports that he has been killed by a drone attack in Afghanistan. Neither the Pakistan government nor the TTP has confirmed this.

Previously also, there were reports of his demise. But each time, Fazlullah surfaced – mocking at the US and western Europe based media organizations. Therefore, observers are taking the latest news of his death with a pinch of salt. If he survives, then there will be much more trouble for Pakistan.

Born Fazal Hayat in 1974, Fazlullah hails from the Yusufzai tribe of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and has a very pedestrian background, unlike his two more famous predecessors – Hakimullah Mehsud and Baitullah Mehsud. In his early days, Fazlullah used to sell wooden shutters, did various odd jobs and used to roam the lanes and bylanes selling sundry articles from a pushcart.

But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the political dynamics of the fundamentalist bloc in Pakistan changed his life. At a time when the mujahideen warlords of Afghanistan were fighting the Soviet troops, great churning was taking place in the tribal belts of Pakistan where the Jamaat-e-Islami (JeI) came into confrontation with the more conservative and hardline Tehrik-e-Nehfaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed(TNSM) led by Maulana Sufi Mohammed. The TNSM was all for immediate imposition of Sharia law over whole of Pakistan and this organization ultimately led the Taliban uprising in the northern parts of Pakistan.

From the very beginning, Fazlullah was a frontline figure in the TNSM. Although both the JeI and the Deobandi group in the Taliban subscribe to the Hanafi jurisprudence, yet JeI’s stress on political Islam and electoral participation led to a wide chasm between it and the Taliban. While Sufi Mohammed led a ragtag armed cadre force into Afghanistan to fight the Soviet army, the JeI only protested against Soviet occupation but sat back inside Pakistan.

Today, Fazlullah is credited with not just mass murders but individual elimination of quite a few senior generals of the Pakistani Army, an institution he counts as one of his main enemies. He was previously reported to be the most diabolical among all the frontline TNSM activists and engineered killings of several senior JeI leaders also when internecine strife was going on between the two organizations inside Pakistan.

But a strange aspect is that while the Afghan Taliban has got itself divided into many factions after the death of Mullah Omar, Fazlullah’s control over the TTP is comparatively solid – although he does not come from Pakistan’s tribal belt and is not a Mehsud, the most powerful of all the factions that make up the TTP. Perhaps this has been possible due to the total Taliban control that he could establish in the Swat valley from 2007-2009 and the extreme savagery and religious fundamentalism he could exhibit.

Fazlullah has many savage exploits and neither Pakistan nor Afghanistan can think of any negotiated settlement till he is around. He earned the sobriquet Radio Mullah for the hate speeches he used to make over his illegal transmitter against the Americans, female education and Pakistan’s programme of polio vaccination, which he described as a conspiracy to make people impotent. He called television and the computer un-Islamic and ordered the shooting of Malala Yusufzai, and an activist for female education who not only survived but when on to share the Nobel Peace prize.

Still, in spite of Fazlullah’s more or less wide acceptance in the Taliban, the TTP has developed fractures. Fazlullah’s right hand man in the TTP now is Umar Mansoor who had arranged the logistics for the attack on the Bacha Khan University. But Mansoor is not liked by some sections of the organization and that is the reason behind Mohammed Khorasani, the official Taliban spokesman, disapproving of the attack on the university. However Fazlullah himself is known to have supported the attack as “universities prepare recruits for the army”.

Fazlullah’s cherished target was General Ashfaque Pervez Kayani, the former Pakistani Army chief. So far he has failed to eliminate him. But he has succeeded in killing at least two army bigwigs – Major General Sanaullah Niazi and Major General Javed Iqbal – who played leading roles in military operations against the Taliban.

Radio Mullah, a creation of Pakistan itself, has now become a Frankenstein. Will Pakistan really be able to marginalize him?

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Politics

Facebook workers stage virtual walkout over no action on Trump tweet

“We looked very closely at the post that discussed the protests in Minnesota to evaluate whether it violated our policies,” Zuckerberg wrote.

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George-Floyd

San Francisco, June 1 : Several Facebook employees on Monday staged a “virtual walkout” in protest at the social networking giant’s policies regarding a recent controversial post by President Donald Trump on its platform.

The employees took to Twitter, publicly announcing their solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter protests that have seized the nation since the death of African-American George Floyd by a white police officer on May 25.

“Today I am participating in a virtual walkout over Facebook”s recent decisions not to moderate posts that we believe violate our platform standards,” posted one Facebook employee.

Another employee tweeted: “As allies we must stand in the way of danger, not behind. I will be participating in today”s virtual walkout in solidarity with the black community inside and outside FB.”

Several Facebook employees have come out in the open to protest the social media giant”s stand on not taking action on a controversial post from Trump about the Minnesota protests.

“I believe Trump”s ”when the looting starts, the shooting starts” tweet (cross-posted to FB), encourages extra-judicial violence and stokes racism. Respect to @Twitter”s integrity team for making the enforcement call,” David Gillis, Director, Product Design at Facebook, said in a tweet on Sunday.

While Twitter last week put out a “public interest notice” on the tweet for violating the platform”s policies about glorifying violence, Facebook refused to take action when the tweet was cross-posted to its platform.

Defending the decision to not take action on the controversial posts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday said that its “policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force”.

“We looked very closely at the post that discussed the protests in Minnesota to evaluate whether it violated our policies,” Zuckerberg wrote.

“Our policy around incitement of violence allows discussion around state use of force, although I think today”s situation raises important questions about what potential limits of that discussion should be,” he said.

“Unlike Twitter, we do not have a policy of putting a warning in front of posts that may incite violence because we believe that if a post incites violence, it should be removed regardless of whether it is newsworthy, even if it comes from a politician,” Zuckerberg added.

In a series of tweets, Gillis argued that policy “needs to evolve” and take more context into account.

“While I understand why we chose to stay squarely within the four corners of our violence and incitement policy, I think it would have been right for us to make a ”spirit of the policy” exception that took more context into account,” he said.

“At any rate, when we have to vigorously debate whether to make an exception to the way we interpret and enforce a given policy (as happened on Friday), this often indicates that said policy needs to evolve. I think that is the case here,” he said.

Another Facebook employee tweeted that he was not proud of how Facebook reacted.

“I work at Facebook and I am not proud of how we”re showing up. The majority of coworkers I”ve spoken to feel the same way. We are making our voice heard,” said Jason Toff, Director of Product Management at Facebook.

–IANS

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Tech

Did ”Anonymous” hacker group attack Minneapolis police website?

On its unconfirmed Facebook page on Thursday, hacker group Anonymous said it was targeting the department.

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Website-hack

San Francisco, June 1 : After hacker group Anonymous issued a threat of retribution for the death of George Floyd allegedly due to police brutality, the website of Minneapolis Police Department showed signs that it faced a cyber attack.

The website currently requires visitors to submit “captchas” to verify they are humans, not bots, the New York Post reported on Monday.

On its unconfirmed Facebook page on Thursday, hacker group Anonymous said it was targeting the department.

The politically-charged hacker group targeted the police department for its “horrific track record of violence and corruption” in an almost four-minute video.

“This travesty has gone on for far too long, and now the people have had enough,” a figure said in a mechanical voice.

“People have had enough of this corruption and violence from an organization that promises to keep them safe,” it added.

“Unfortunately, we do not trust your corrupt organization to carry out justice, so we will be exposing your many crimes to the world,” said the masked figure.

Some 5,000 US National Guard troops were deployed in major states amid the ongoing protests against the death of Floyd in police custody on May 25 in the city of Minneapolis, while also demanding an end to racism and police violence.

–IANS

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Disaster

Italy’s death toll from coronavirus rises by 75 to 33,415

The rest 35,253 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

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Italy Coronavirus

Rome, June 1 : Seventy-five more COVID-19 patients had died in the past 24 hours in Italy, bringing the country”s toll to 33,415, out of total infection cases of 233,019, according to fresh figures.

Nationwide, the number of active infections dropped by 1,616 to 42,075, said the Civil Protection Department on Sunday, Xinhua news agency reported.

Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 435 are in intensive care, 15 fewer compared to Saturday, and 6,387 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 293 patients from the previous day.

The rest 35,253 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

Recoveries rose by 1,874 compared to Saturday, bringing the nationwide total to 157,507.

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