World View: Bizarre Mullah Omar Death Announcement Seals Fate of Afghan Peace Talks

The Associated Press
The Associated Press

This morning’s key headlines from

  • Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq killed in gunfight in Pakistan
  • Bizarre Mullah Omar death announcement seals fate of Afghan peace talks
  • Mullah Omar’s impossible conditions for Afghan peace talks

Lashkar-e-Jhangvi leader Malik Ishaq killed in gunfight in Pakistan

The death of Malik Ishaq (Pakistan Today)
The death of Malik Ishaq (Pakistan Today)

Malik Ishaq, the leader of Pakistan’s most extreme terror group, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), responsible for thousands of civilian deaths, mostly Shia Muslims, was killed on Wednesday in a gunfight with police.

I have written many times about Pakistan’s al-Qaeda linked terror group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), which is dedicated to the extermination of all Shias, and particularly the Hazara ethnic group, in the same way that the Nazis were dedicated to the extermination of all Jews.

According to an LeJ statement issued in 2013:

Our mission [in Pakistan] is the abolition of this impure sect and people, the Shias and the Shia Hazaras, from every city, every village, every nook and corner of Pakistan. Like in the past, [our] successful Jihad against the Hazaras in Pakistan and, in particular, in Quetta is ongoing and will continue. We will make Pakistan their graveyard– their houses will be destroyed by bombs and suicide bombers. … Jihad against the Shia Hazaras has now become our duty. … We will rest only after hoisting the flag of true Islam on the land of the pure — Pakistan.

LeJ has conducted numerous horrific terrorist attacks against targets like Shia mosques during Friday prayers and Shia marketplaces, and I have reported on a number of them.

LeJ chief Malik Ishaq was arrested a week ago, along with his two sons. The police interrogated him, and then took him in a convoy to aid the police in recovering weapons and explosives. Three water coolers filled with explosives, detonators, Kalashnikov assault rifles, 12 pistols and four hand grenades were seized during the raid, according to police.

As the convoy was returning, it was allegedly attacked by some 12-15 gunmen, and succeeded in freeing Ishaq. In the subsequent shootout, Ishaq, his two sons, and 11 other militants were killed. There’s some controversy, because the police claim that Ishaq was killed by the attackers, rather than by the police. There are claims that the police staged the gunfight in order to kill Ishaq, who might have been freed by a court, as he had been in the past.

Ishaq was also accused of masterminding, from behind bars, the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore, which wounded seven players and an assistant coach, and killed eight Pakistanis. (From 2009: “Cricketing world in shock after attack on Sri Lanka team in Pakistan”)

This attack was extremely humiliating to Pakistan, not only because of the attack itself, but also because Pakistan was stripped of its right to co-host the 2011 cricket World Cup, and no international cricket was played in Pakistan for years. It was only in May and June of this year that international cricket returned to Pakistan, when the Zimbabwe team visited for a series of games. Pakistan Today and BBC and Express Tribune (Pakistan)

Bizarre Mullah Omar death announcement seals fate of Afghan peace talks

The death of Mullah Mohammed Omar, who has been the spiritual head of the Taliban and al-Qaeda since the late 1990s, was confirmed on Wednesday in a bizarre announcement that said he had been dead for years. Some reports said he died in 2012, others in 2013; one said he died of tuberculosis in Karachi, others that he died in Afghanistan near the Pakistan border.

With American coalition troops set to pull out of Afghanistan at some unspecified time in the near future, the hope has been that the Taliban will stop making terrorist attacks and will agree to peace talks with the Afghan government, so that the pullout won’t turn into another major humiliation, like the pullout from Iraq.

The problem is that there are multiple tribal groups within the Taliban, including some that had pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State (IS or ISIS or ISIL or Daesh). The hope was that Omar would serve to unite all the Taliban groups to agree to a peace deal with the Afghan government in Kabul, but the (announcement of the) death of Omar now makes that even more impossible. In fact, with Omar’s death kept a secret for 2-3 years, some analysts are saying word of his death was leaked by a tribal group wanting to torpedo any peace talks. GEO TV (Pakistan) and CNN and Reuters

Mullah Omar’s impossible conditions for Afghan peace talks

In June 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry announced that “peace talks” with the Afghan Taliban would begin in Doha, Qatar. As Kerry was making the announcement, the Taliban themselves were giving a press conference in Doha, Qatar, announcing the return of the “Political Office of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.” This was the name of the country Afghanistan when the Taliban ruled it, prior to September 11, 2001. The so-called “peace talks” collapsed the next day. ( “20-Jun-13 World View — Afghan peace talks collapse day after they’re announced”)

It has been the same story over and over for the Afghan-Taliban “peace talks” (and incidentally, also for the Pakistan-Taliban “peace talks”). The Taliban always express interest in “peace talks,” setting all sorts of conditions, and continuing with full-scale war against the Afghan government, and making it clear to everyone that there will be no peace talks.

Mullah Omar has been the great hope for peace talks — that he would bring about unity among all the Taliban tribal groups, and they would all sign on to a peace deal, so that the American-led military coalition could withdraw without being humiliated.

In fact, it was just two weeks ago that an Eid (end-of-Ramadan) message supposedly from Mullah Omar that contained a reference to “political endeavors” was interpreted by desperate politicians as approving the peace process.

According to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani:

The whole nation wants peace. During the past 14 years we tried to hold face-to-face talks but could not succeed. But it has happened now and the second round of talks will be held within a few weeks.

We now know that the message could not have been from Omar.

The first meeting was held, and the Taliban presented their demands for further talks: The complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, removing the names of Taliban commanders from a US Department of State blacklist, and the exchange of prisoners. None of these conditions can be met by the West. Express Tribune (Pakistan) and Deutsche Welle and Bloomberg

KEYS: Generational Dynamics, Pakistan, Lashkar-e Jhangvi, LeJ, Taliban, Shias, Hazaras, Quetta, Malik Ishaq, cricket, Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Islamic State / of Iraq and Syria/Sham/the Levant, IS, ISIS, ISIL, Daesh, Afghanistan, Mullah Mohammed Omar, John Kerry, Ashraf Ghani
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