Islamabad: Pakistani Taliban deputy leader Sheikh Khalid Haqqani is expected to lead the group`s operations despite Mullah Fazlullah`s appointment as the new chief of the banned organisation, a media report said on Thursday.
Haqqani, who hails from Swabi district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, will act as the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan`s (TTP) functional head and call the shots on behalf of Fazlullah, believed to be based in Afghanistan.
"Well-informed tribal circles have refuted rumours of Fazlullah’s return to the Federally Administered Tribal Areas after his appointment as the TTP ameer," The News daily reported.
"According to them, Fazlullah did express his desire to return to Pakistan but he was advised against staging a comeback because of the growing intensity of the US drone strikes in the Waziristan region," the report said.
The Taliban leadership believes its new chief will be safer in Afghanistan, which has witnessed fewer US drone strikes than Pakistan.
Fazlullah, who belongs to Swat and was nicknamed Mullah Radio, was appointed the new chief after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike this month.
With the appointment of Fazlullah and Haqqani, the command of the Waziristan-based TTP has shifted from the tribal region to the settled districts of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, analysts said.
Before joining the Taliban, Haqqani led a faction called the Haqqani Taliban. He uses the surname Haqqani as he is a student of the radical Madrassa Darul Uloom Haqqania at Akhora Khattak in Nowshera district.
Often described by critics as the University of Jehad, the madrassa is a radical Deobandi seminary best known as the place where Afghan Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar got his education.
When Haqqani was named Fazlullah`s deputy, the Taliban`s media arm described him as one of the group`s top intellectuals and the force behind a decree issued by militants against the Pakistani media.
Haqqani has been linked to three suicide attacks and several terrorist strikes, including an assault on the Frontier Corps headquarters in Shabqadar in May 2011 that killed 80 soldiers, recruits and civilians.
He participated in a failed terror plot against Awami National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan in 2008. He is also said to be the mastermind behind the December 2012 suicide attack that killed senior ANP leader Bashir Ahmed Bilour.