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Targeted killings – Mehsud and Omar

November 8, 2013

Hakimullah MehsudBBC NEWS: Pakistan’s interior minister has said the death of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has destroyed the country’s nascent peace process.

“This is not just the killing of one person, it’s the death of all peace efforts,” Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said.

Pakistan summoned the US ambassador to protest over Friday’s drone strike that killed Mehsud.  It came a day before a Pakistani delegation had been due to fly to North Waziristan to meet Mehsud.  Hakimullah Mehsud was killed a day before Pakistani officials say they were scheduled to send a three-member team to start peace negotiations with the Taliban.

Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told a local TV news channel, Geo, that the drone strike was an attempt to “sabotage” Pakistan’s peace talks with Taliban.

But many believe Mehsud’s death will leave the field open for groups that are known to have publicly favoured a rapprochement with Pakistan.

Contemplating the impact of the death by drone of the Pakistani Taliban’s leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, I was reminded of the response Ahmed Rashid gave to me two years ago when I asked what the impact would be of the death of the Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar.  He made the following observations:

  • The death of Mullah Omar would be detrimental to the peace process – if you eliminate him the Taleban fragment.
  • All major Taleban policy decisions need the blessing of Mullah Omar, if he is dead, there is no one to bless a peace agreement.
  • Other insurgent leaders (Haqqani?) have signed allegiance to Omar, this allegiance would probably disappear if Omar died.
  • Also the killing of many mid-level commanders makes a peace process very difficult – “who do you talk to?”
  • The death of Omar fragments the Taleban and keeps Afghanistan unstable.
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