As if Pakistan and the United States in their war against the Taliban didn’t have enough to worry about, it has emerged that the Pakistani Taliban’s new leader is a bit of a hoon.
Hakimullah Mehsud became the leader of Tehrik-e-Taliban—the Afghan Taliban’s Pakistani franchise—sometime this fall, after his predecessor Baitullah Mehsud got the Predator treatment from the United States.
Baitullah left office similarly to how he had acquired it: the Pakistani Taliban’s founder, Nek Mohammad, met his fate in a very similar manner in the spring of 2004, handing over the reins to Baitullah, who expanded the insurgency into the very heart of Pakistan.
In a recent profile, the BBC’s Syed Shoaib Hasan recalls meeting Hakimullah in South Waziristan—the Pakistani Taliban’s heartland—in October 2007. The 28-year-old commander had already had a reputation with cars and guns:
[Hakimullah Mehsud] was already famous within the Taliban for his skills in battle – his ability to handle a Kalashnikov and a Toyota pick-up were legendary. “He is the best after Nek Mohammad,” our Taliban driver told us during a hair-raising journey before the meeting in 2007.
Of said hair-raising journey, the author offers a vivid recollection:
He took us for a drive. To demonstrate his skill with the vehicle, he drove like a man possessed, manoeuvring around razor sharp bends at impossible speeds. He finished the demonstration by braking inches short of a several hundred foot drop. While the rest of us sat in stunned silence, he just laughed chillingly and stuck the car in reverse to smoothly continue the journey.
To imagine that cruising in blood-curdling detail, remember that mountainous South Waziristan is not exactly known for its road network. In that tribal borderland wedged between Afghanistan and Pakistan, this is where you do your driving:
Source: BBC, Photo Credit: A Majeed/AFP/Getty Images, John Moore/Getty Images