Mullah FM back on the air in Swat

Wanted flyer for Swat Taliban leaders. Fazlullah is the last Taliban commander in the first row.

As the Pakistani government and military rush to declare victory against the Taliban in the war-torn district of Swat, Mullah Fazlullah has broadcast on the airwaves for the first time in months.

Fazlullah has not been heard on the radio for months after the military launched a major operation to clear the Taliban from Swat and the neighboring districts of Dir and Buner at the end of April.

Fazlullah's broadcasts were infamous for the anti-government screeds and the radical interpretations of Islam. He was nicknamed "Mullah FM" and "Radio Mullah" for pioneering the use of illegal radio broadcasts to promote his radical agenda.

Residents of Swat would be glued to the radio as Fazlullah would issue lists of government and security officials, as well as tribal leaders, who were to be executed for opposing the Taliban. Fazlullah would also campaign against polio vaccination drives, insisting the shots were a Jewish plot to sterilize Muslims, and railed against young girls attending school. More than 200 schools have been torched by the Taliban in Swat since 2007.

Residents in Mingora said Fazlullah's recent speech was subdued and lacking in invective against the military. "You can feel as if the operation has taken the sting out of him," one resident told Daily Times.

Fazlullah's re-emergence on the airwaves crushed the claim of the Pakistani government and the military that he had been gravely wounded during fighting in his home town. Fazlullah has been reported to have been killed, wounded, and surrounded multiple times since the operation began.

Last week, Swat Taliban spokesman Mullah Omar said Fazlullah was alive, along with all of the group's senior leadership.

"Fazlullah is safe and the government claim is totally baseless," Omar told Pakistani journalists. He also said the Taliban leadership had gone underground "as part of their overall strategy" once the Army launched operations in Buner, Dir, and Swat, Daily Times reported.

Both the government and the military have claimed that Swat is now over 90 percent cleared of the Taliban and have called an end to major military operations. The government is urging internally displaced people who fled the violence to return to their homes in Swat and neighboring Buner.

The military is also planning to build bases in Swat and Buner, and plans on remaining in the region for two years.

But reports from the region paint a less-than-positive picture of the security situation in Swat and Buner. The government is being accused of pushing the internally displaced people out of camps by providing poor services, and sending them back to regions where the fighting is still ongoing, according to Newsweek.

The Taliban are still able to control ground in Buner, where the military also claimed the Taliban had been defeated more than a month ago. According to local residents in Buner, the Taliban are active in many of the major towns, and have been seen setting up a checkpoint where they are seen "singling out government officials and their opponents," according to The News.

A group called the Aman Tehrik, or Peace Movement, was highly critical of the military operation in Swat, Dir, and Buner. The group said the military operation was "nominal" and failed to kill or capture "third rank" Taliban leaders.

The Aman Tehrik "said terrorist leaders were still safe and their sanctuaries were intact in Swat and Buner," according to Dawn.

The Amam Tehrik opposes the establishment of military bases in Swat and Buner, and said the building of these bases would inflame the situation.

Background on the Malakand Accord and fighting in Swat

The fighting in Swat, Dir, Buner, and Shangla broke out after a peace agreement with the Taliban failed. The agreement, known as the Malakand Accord, placed the Malakand Division and the district of Kohistan under the control of the Taliban. The Malakand Division is comprised of the districts of Malakand, Swat, Shangla, Buner, Dir, and Chitral. The Malakand Division and the neighboring Kohistan district together encompass nearly one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.

The government signed the Malakand Accord with Taliban front man Sufi Mohammed, Fazlullah's father-in-law, on February 16 after two years of fighting that put the Taliban in control of the district. During those two years, the military was defeated three separate times while attempting to wrest control from the Taliban. Each defeat put the Taliban in greater control of the district.

The peace agreement called for the end of military operations in Swat, the end of Taliban operations, and the imposition of sharia, or Islamic law, in the Malakand Division.

But the Taliban violated the agreement immediately after signing it, and proceeded to attack security forces and conduct armed patrols. The military remained silent while the government approved the Taliban's demand for sharia throughout Malakand.

The government ordered a military offensive in Dir and Buner after enormous pressure from the US and other Western governments to stem the Taliban tide pushing toward central Pakistan. The Taliban advanced from Swat into Buner in early April and took over the district in eight days. The move into Buner has put the Taliban within 60 miles of Islamabad and close to several nuclear facilities and the vital Tarbela Dam. The Taliban also have moved into Mansehra and established bases and a training camp in the region.

Pakistani government and military officials have dismissed the Taliban threat to Islamabad and the country's nuclear facilities, but at the end of April, the local Islamabad government ordered troops to deploy in the Margala hills just north of the city to block a Taliban advance, while the Haripur government beefed up security at the Tarbela Dam.


READER COMMENTS: "Mullah FM back on the air in Swat"

Posted by Minnor at July 19, 2009 2:12 AM ET:

Any clues about if it were a pre-recorded voice or live broadcast?

Posted by Larry Sheldon at July 19, 2009 5:08 PM ET:

Continuing my quest for answers.

Can somebody here explain to me how it is that these "religious" folks that want to return us to the Stone Age are willing to use radio, television, and high-tech weaponry to do it to us?

Posted by tbrucia at July 19, 2009 11:40 PM ET:

Mullah FM: Not bad for a guy who has been "killed, wounded, and surrounded multiple times".... though I assume the last few deaths were superfluous flourishes...

Posted by C. Jordan at July 20, 2009 7:47 AM ET:

"Can somebody here explain to me how it is that these "religious" folks that want to return us to the Stone Age are willing to use radio, television, and high-tech weaponry to do it to us?"

I've often wondered the same thing, and I would also add Drug use, and strip clubs to that list. They claim to be pure as the wind drivin' snow, but clearly don't practice anything they preach.

The best theory I've come up with is that its all about power and control. In Islam, deception is a pillar in military theory. Doesn't matter how you deceive, ends justify the means sorta thing.

Posted by MZBH at July 20, 2009 9:50 AM ET:

"A local resident said the voice on the recording Tuesday was definitely Maulana Fazlullah's, but that he sounded somber and sick."

If the tape is new, then 'Somber and sick' would suggest that he may have been injured as claimed.

The Taliban leadership is not in this to personally fight, which is why the second and third string commanders are getting killed with ease. The leadership is in this to be the face of the movement, and therefore try and keep it going, and therefore is pretty much just running and hiding which makes it pretty hard to get them in the sort of terrain that exists.

Posted by Bangash Khan at July 20, 2009 9:51 AM ET:

What is important is that the Swati Taliban are destroyed as an organized force. Occasional sermons on radio and hit and run attacks will continue for some time to come.

The operation in Swat/Buner has been far more successful than American operations in Iraq/Afghanistan, where simply the level of violence going down is considered a great victory.

Posted by David M at July 20, 2009 10:47 AM ET:

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 07/20/2009 News and Personal dispatches from the front and the home front.

Posted by G-Shock at July 20, 2009 1:09 PM ET:

"Can somebody here explain to me how it is that these "religious" folks that want to return us to the Stone Age are willing to use radio, television, and high-tech weaponry to do it to us?"

Ignorance my friend, well at least their use of latest equipment should tell you that the media is wrongly portraying them. There is nothing in what they preach will send you to stone age, matter of fact if you give them a nuclear weapon they will use it. They are all pro-science and technologies but the difference comes where the question arises how you want to use them. If the use of the modern stuff in not in according to Islamic Laws then it is not suppose to be used in that manner but if it is in according with the Islamic laws then it's all gravy. Quran has nothing against Science and Technology. I hope this clears it.

Example. TV for porn's: Bad-
TV for Islamic Lecture: Good-

Radio FM for songs, anti Islamic discussions: Bad-
Radio FM for Quran recitation, Islamic perching: Good-

Helicopter gunship attacking Muslim: Bad-
Helicopter gunship attacking enemies of Islam: Good-

They dont oppose the technology itself but the way its been use.

Posted by KaKaVip's Blog at July 20, 2009 1:12 PM ET:

Mullah FM: Not bad for a guy who has been "killed, wounded, and surrounded multiple times"....

Posted by xavier at July 20, 2009 3:43 PM ET:

Easterm religions have the concept of reincarnation and rebirth. Pakistani army and ISI are proving that these concepts are indeed factuall correct.

Wonder what it must feel to be Fazlullah and have so many lives.

Posted by xavier at July 21, 2009 5:19 PM ET:


Sorry to counter you but Taliban did ban all forms of image reproduction of human beings. So TV Islamic teachings might not be OK as there is a preacher.

Quran may not have any direct commentary on science (actually scientific method was formalized by then) but believing in theology(Quran in this case) is a direct contradiction of scientific method, where an element of doubt is usually healthy. Meaning no absolute belief, contrary to faith.

When reasonable evidence shows up [against] any theory it is bound to fall. Can't say that about Islam. The belief in Allah and Mohammad is absolute[for Muslims].

Actually there is a range of opinions about Mohammad, from intense liking to Danish cartoons.

Posted by G-Shock at July 22, 2009 4:14 AM ET:

Islam doesn't allow picture (as portraits) in houses because Prophet Mohammad didn't like them, may be due to the fact that ppl might start worshiping them back in the day and some Hindu still do today, whereas sceneries are encouraged. If Taliban did ban all forms of images reproduction you would not be seeing all these new propaganda videos coming from As-Sahab every week. You might be a lacking on info. In this respect.

Secondly, to keep it simple I said Islam is not against science and technologies in a sense that it encourages new invention for the betterment of people. And so were the invention in Muslim Spain. There is a famous saying of Prophet M back in the day - Learn and educate yourself even if you have to do to China-

Posted by xavier at July 22, 2009 5:29 PM ET:


And why is it wrong to worship portraits?. I mean, polytheism is just as sensible as monotheism. How are people so sure that there is one and only one god? It's more difficult to prove there exists one and only one god than to prove a god(possibly many) exist(s).

Now, as long as people do not kill me or take away my rights away in the name of religion(or communism) I do not care what they worship.

On the Taliban note, I think they have another dimension to their plans of taking us to stone age. They deny women even basic rights. This is quite primitive behavior. If you want more examples of Taliban taking us to stone age I will give you more.

But more importantly As-sahab(AQ's media wing) and Taliban are different. So standards of AS and Taliban might be different. AQ (and AS) being more practical and political while Taliban being more religious.

Posted by britsarmymom at July 23, 2009 7:04 AM ET:

"On the Taliban note, I think they have another dimension to their plans of taking us to stone age."

Why have I never heard this put so succinctly? Oh, and BTW, fundamental & early "teachings" of Western religion didn't include directives against "false" idols? Religion scares the beejeezus out of me.