Editorial -- Express Tribune -- (coming out soon in the market)
Unconfirmed reports on Friday from Fata indicate that Maulvi Faqir Mohammad may have been killed in an airstrike in Mohmand Agency. Faqir, who is head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) Bajaur chapter is said to have been seen in Mohmand after his base in Damadola was captured by the army a few days ago. A newspaper report said that local residents had reported that their village had been surrounded by the Taliban and that this usually happens only when a key commander is killed. If Faqir is indeed dead, it would be a major victory for Pakistan’s anti-terror fight since he had, by his own admission, been a strong supporter of Al Qaeda’s number two Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri. Also, he had served as the TTP’s deputy head and was being tipped as a possible successor to Hakeemullah Mehsud.
Faqir’s alleged death also brings to forefront certain reports published in a section of the international media alleging that he could have been an ISI asset and that he was instrumental in the Taliban using Bajaur as a base to make forays into neighbouring Afghanistan’s Kunar province. (By the same token, however, Pakistani officials have accused him of letting in Afghan elements from across the border and come and make havoc in Bajaur). However, his death could well be the harbinger of a noteworthy repositioning of the establishment’s policy on fighting terrorism. Also what lends credence to this are recent arrests of important militant commanders from across the country. However, whether this shift in policy -- and there should be no doubt about the fact that it would be good for Pakistan -- is permanent and whether it means a full frontal assault by the state on all militant outfits using Pakistani territory is something only time will tell.