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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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Twitter locks account of Chinese Embassy in US over Uyghur tweet

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Twitter has locked the official account of China’s Embassy in the US over a controversial post that referred to Muslim Uyghur women as “baby-making machines” prior to government intervention.

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21 killed in Baghdad twin suicide bombings

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Baghdad

At least 21 people were killed and 53 others injured on Thursday in twin suicide bombings at a crowded market area in Baghdad, according to Iraqi officials.

A suicide bomber blew up his explosive belt in a crowded market in Bab al-Sharji area, and a second one detonated his a few minutes later in the same market, an Interior Ministry source told Xinhua news agency.

Meanwhile, the source added that ambulances and civilian cars have evacuated the wounded to nearby hospitals and medical centres.

It was the first such attack in the Iraqi capital city in nearly two year, as the security situation has improved since the Iraqi security forces fully defeated the Islamic State terror group across the country late in 2017.

However, sporadic deadly incidents still occur in the war-ravaged country

No group has claimed responsibility for Thursday’s bombings yet.

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US President Joe Biden’s inaugural address

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Following is the inauguration speech as prepared for delivery by Democrat Joe Biden, who was sworn in as president of the United States on Wednesday:

“This is democracy’s day.

A day of history and hope.

Of renewal and resolve.

Through a crucible for the ages America has been tested anew and America has risen to the challenge.Today, we celebrate the triumph not of a candidate, but of a cause, the cause of democracy.

The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.

We have learned again that democracy is precious.Democracy is fragile.

And at this hour, my friends, democracy has prevailed.So now, on this hallowed ground where just days ago violence sought to shake this Capitol’s very foundation, we come together as one nation, under God, indivisible, to carry out the peaceful transfer of power as we have for more than two centuries.

We look ahead in our uniquely American way – restless, bold, optimistic – and set our sights on the nation we know we can be and we must be.

I thank my predecessors of both parties for their presence here.

I thank them from the bottom of my heart.You know the of our Constitution and the strength of our nation.

As does President Carter, who I spoke to last night but who cannot be with us today, but whom we salute for his lifetime of service.

I have just taken the sacred oath each of these patriots took — an oath first sworn by George Washington.

But the American story depends not on any one of us, not on some of us, but on all of us.

On ‘We the People’ who seek a more perfect Union.

This is a great nation and we are a good people.

Over the centuries through storm and strife, in peace and in war, we have come so far. But we still

We will press forward with speed and urgency, for we have much to do in this winter of peril and possibility.

Much to repair.

Much to restore.

Much to heal.

Much to build.

And much to gain.

Few periods in our nation’s history have been more challenging or difficult than the one we’re in now.A once-in-a-century virus silently stalks the country.It’s taken as many lives in one year as America lost in all of World War Two.Millions of jobs have been lost.

Hundreds of thousands of businesses closed.A cry for racial justice some 400 years in the making moves us. The dream of justice for all will be deferred no longer.

A cry for survival comes from the planet itself. A cry that can’t be any more desperate or any more clear.

And now, a rise in political extremism, white supremacy, domestic terrorism that we must confront and we will defeat.

To overcome these challenges – to restore the soul and to secure the future of America – requires more than words.It requires that most elusive of things in a democracy: Unity.In another January in Washington, on New Year’s Day 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

When he put pen to paper, the president said, “If my name ever goes down into history it will be for this act and my whole soul is in it.”

My whole soul is in it.Today, on this January day, my whole soul is in this:Bringing America together.Uniting our people.And uniting our nation.

I ask every American to join me in this cause.

Uniting to fight the common foes we face:

Anger, resentment, hatred.Extremism, lawlessness, violence.

Disease, joblessness, hopelessness.With unity we can do great things. Important things.

We can right wrongs.

We can put people to work in good jobs.We can teach our children in safe schools.

We can overcome this deadly virus.

We can reward work, rebuild the middle class, and make health care secure for all.We can deliver racial justice.

We can make America, once again, the leading force for good in the world.I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy.I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real.

But I also know they are not new.Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal that we are all created equal and the harsh, ugly reality that racism, nativism, fear, and demonization have long torn us apart.

The battle is perennial.

Victory is never assured.

Through the Civil War, the Great Depression, World War, 9/11, through struggle, sacrifice, and setbacks, our “better angels” have always prevailed.In each of these moments, enough of us came together to carry all of us forward.

And, we can do so now.

History, faith, and reason show the way, the way of unity.

We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbors.

We can treat each other with dignity and respect.

We can join forces, stop the shouting, and lower the temperature.

For without unity, there is no peace, only bitterness and fury.

No progress, only exhausting outrage.No nation, only a state of chaos.

This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge, and unity is the path forward.

And, we must meet this moment as the United States of America.

If we do that, I guarantee you, we will not fail.We have never, ever, ever failed in America when we have acted together.

And so today, at this time and in this place, let us start afresh.

All of us.

Let us listen to one another.

Hear one another.

See one another.

Show respect to one another.

Politics need not be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.

Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war.

And, we must reject a culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.

My fellow Americans, we have to be different than this.

America has to be better than this.

And, I believe America is better than this.

Just look around.

Here we stand, in the shadow of a Capitol dome that was completed amid the Civil War, when the Union itself hung in the balance.

Yet we endured and we prevailed.

Here we stand looking out to the great Mall where Dr. King spoke of his dream.

Here we stand, where 108 years ago at another inaugural, thousands of protestors tried to block brave women from marching for the right to vote.

Today, we mark the swearing-in of the first woman in American history elected to national office – Vice President Kamala Harris.

Don’t tell me things can’t change.

Here we stand across the Potomac from Arlington National Cemetery, where heroes who gave the last full measure of devotion rest in eternal peace.

And here we stand, just days after a riotous mob thought they could use violence to silence the will of the people, to stop the work of our democracy, and to drive us from this sacred ground.

That did not happen.

It will never happen.

Not today.

Not tomorrow.

Not ever.

To all those who supported our campaign I am humbled by the faith you have placed in us.

To all those who did not support us, let me say this:

Hear me out as we move forward. Take a measure of me and my heart.

And if you still disagree, so be it.

That’s democracy. That’s America. The right to dissent peaceably, within the guardrails of our Republic, is perhaps our nation’s greatest strength.

Yet hear me clearly:

Disagreement must not lead to disunion.

And I pledge this to you: I will be a president for all Americans.

I will fight as hard for those who did not support me as for those who did.

Many centuries ago, Saint Augustine, a saint of my church, wrote that a people was a multitude defined by the common objects of their love.

What are the common objects we love that define us as Americans?

I think I know.

Opportunity.

Security.

Liberty.

Dignity.

Respect.

Honor.

And, yes, the truth.

Recent weeks and months have taught us a painful lesson.

There is truth and there are lies.Lies told for power and for profit.

And each of us has a duty and responsibility, as citizens, as Americans, and especially as leaders – leaders who have pledged to honor our Constitution and protect our nation — to defend the truth and to defeat the lies.

I understand that many Americans view the future with some fear and trepidation.

I understand they worry about their jobs, about taking care of their families, about what comes next.

I get it.But the answer is not to turn inward, to retreat into competing factions, distrusting those who don’t look like you do, or worship the way you do, or don’t get their news from the same sources you do.

We must end this uncivil war that pits red against blue, rural versus urban, conservative versus liberal.

We can do this if we open our souls instead of hardening our hearts.If we show a little tolerance and humility.If we’re willing to stand in the other person’s shoes just for a moment.

Because here is the thing about life: There is no accounting for what fate will deal you.

There are some days when we need a hand.

There are other days when we’re called on to lend one.

That is how we must be with one another.And, if we are this way, our country will be stronger, more prosperous, more ready for the future.

My fellow Americans, in the work ahead of us, we will need each other.

We will need all our strength to persevere through this dark winter.

We are entering what may well be the toughest and deadliest period of the virus.

We must set aside the politics and finally face this pandemic as one nation.

I promise you this: as the Bible says weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.

We will get through this, together

The world is watching today.

So here is my message to those beyond our borders: America has been tested and we have come out stronger for it.

We will repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.

Not to meet yesterday’s challenges, but today’s and tomorrow’s.

We will lead not merely by the example of our power but by the power of our example.

We will be a strong and trusted partner for peace, progress, and security.

We have been through so much in this nation.And, in my first act as president, I would like to ask you to join me in a moment of silent prayer to remember all those we lost this past year to the pandemic.

To those 400,000 fellow Americans – mothers and fathers, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, friends, neighbors, and co-workers.

We will honor them by becoming the people and nation we know we can and should be.Let us say a silent prayer for those who lost their lives, for those they left behind, and for our country.

Amen.

This is a time of testing.

We face an attack on democracy and on truth.A raging virus.Growing inequity.

The sting of systemic racism.

A climate in crisis.

America’s role in the world.

Any one of these would be enough to challenge us in profound ways.

But the fact is we face them all at once, presenting this nation with the gravest of responsibilities.

Now we must step up.

All of us.It is a time for boldness, for there is so much to do.

And, this is certain.

We will be judged, you and I, for how we resolve the cascading crises of our era.

Will we rise to the occasion?

Will we master this rare and difficult hour?

Will we meet our obligations and pass along a new and better world for our children?

I believe we must and I believe we will.

And when we do, we will write the next chapter in the American story.

It’s a story that might sound something like a song that means a lot to me.

It’s called ‘American Anthem’ and there is one verse stands out for me:

‘he work and prayersof centuries have brought us to this day

What shall be our legacy?

What will our children say?…

Let me know in my heart

When my days are through

AmericaAmericaI gave my best to you.

‘Let us add our own work and prayers to the unfolding story of our nation.

If we do this then when our days are through our children and our children’s children will say of us they gave their best.

They did their duty.

They healed a broken land.

My fellow Americans, I close today where I began, with a sacred oath.

Before God and all of you I give you my word.I will always level with you.

I will defend the Constitution.

I will defend our democracy.

I will defend America.

I will give my all in your service thinking not of power, but of possibilities.

Not of personal interest, but of the public good.And together, we shall write an American story of hope, not fear.

Of unity, not division.

Of light, not darkness.

An American story of decency and dignity.

Of love and of healing.

Of greatness and of goodness.

May this be the story that guides us.

The story that inspires us.

The story that tells ages yet to come that we answered the call of history.

We met the moment.

That democracy and hope, truth and justice, did not die on our watch but thrived.

That our America secured liberty at home and stood once again as a beacon to the world.

That is what we owe our forebearers, one another, and generations to follow.

So, with purpose and resolve we turn to the tasks of our time.Sustained by faith.

Driven by conviction.

And, devoted to one another and to this country we love with all our hearts.

May God bless America and may God protect our troops.

Thank you, America.”

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