Recent news claims Hakimullah Mehsud, the Pakistan Taliban leader, was killed by drone strike. This was confirmed by all major news agencies, the ISI in Pakistan and the Taliban themselves. In the past, reports claimed Mehsud was dead and the same for Mullah Mohammed Omar the Afghanistan Taliban leader. Yet, they both lived on until now, one a joker and one a legend.
Omar’s rise to power was prompted from a dream he had where a woman appeared and told him to rise and end the chaos with the help of Allah. Since he was a teacher in a madrasah, it was easy to band together the students to fight. The word Taliban means students in Pashto. At one time, the Taliban actually stood for something: students who rose up and banned together to protect their people from the invasion of the Soviets. It was an admirable thing and they were successful. It may come as a shock in the West, but the Taliban are legends in the East. They are the saviors.
After the Soviets left, the tribal wars broke out across the country between militants as each tribal leader vied for power by rapping, pillaging and force. The Taliban, under Mullah Mohammed Omar, again, came to the rescue of Afghani people. Their platform was modesty, not extremism nor conservatism, but fair and just, at least according to Omar in his 2001 interview.
Obviously, this changed as war and foreign influence plagued Afghanistan again. The invaders all had an agenda and the Afghani people would endure yet another decade and more of turmoil. It was at this time the Taliban changed. In fact, the composition is no longer composed of faithful Afghani students. While the exact composition is unknown, the US State Department confirmed that a large percent of the Taliban were Pakistani, militant Al Qaeda and other mujahedeen fighters from other countries.
The transformation is probably why after a decade of a new war, in 2011 only 29% of Afghani citizens supported the Taliban. Yet, the legends of Mullah Mohammed Omar still live on in an infamous way. Infamous because nobody really knows what he looks like other than he is tall with one eye. However, everyone knows what Hakimullah Mehsud looks like. There are hundreds of pictures and YouTube videos. Can someone be taken seriously as a mujahedeen fighter if they are famous on social networks?
Mehsud became famous when he captured 250 Pakistani soldiers. Yet, it is his gallivanting in the stolen American jeeps, intended for NATO, which he intercepted, that made him famous on YouTube. As he smiles and laughs while driving along it is quite obvious he is not camera shy. It is even possible there is a selfie photo lingering out there somewhere.
Similarly, Omar also is famous for stealing or better retrieving something. In 1996, his supporters starting calling him Amir al-Mu’minin, meaning Commander of the Faithful when he recovered a cloak claimed to belong to Prophet Mohammed. It was held inside many chests within the Mosque of the Cloak in the city of Kandahar. Folklore proclaimed that whoever retrieved it would be the great leader of the Muslims. Obviously, there is no video on YouTube of this act.
As of November 1, Mehsud is dead. Should he be remembered by his adopted name, “Hakimullah,” which means “one who has knowledge,” or the other option, “one who loved to be on camera?” For Muslims, “to have knowledge,” means to have a deep understanding of the Quran, which can only be read in Arabic. Hakimullah did not speak Arabic, but Omar did. Maybe that is why Omar is considered the spiritual leader of the Taliban and taken seriously while Mehsud is forever enshrined smiling on the Internet and now eliminated by drone strike.
By: Cayce Manesiotis