A one-time driver who speedily rose to top-level leadership, the Pakistan Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud had done it all… from kidnapping large groups of Pakistani soldiers to stealing American jeeps. Under the leadership of the man who was killed in an American drone attack last week, suicide bombings in both Pakistan and Afghanistan had continued.

But nothing shook the conscience of the world as much as the Pakistan Taliban’s dastardly attack on Malala Yousafzai, a schoolgirl in Pakistan’s Swat Valley. Her only sin was to defy this terrorist group’s diktat against girls’ education.

While not many, if any, will shed tears at the bloody remains of Mehsud, Malala has become an international celebrity… a frontrunner for the Nobel Peace Prize and meeting global leaders such as US President Barack Obama and the British Queen Elizabeth II. She is a rare example of a girl ferociously fighting for as simple a right as that to education, which is denied to lakhs of girls in this part of the world.

Both the Pakistan and Afghanistan leaderships have criticised the “untimely” attack as Mehsud’s organisation — the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan — was scheduled to hold peace talks with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has raved and ranted against Washington for “scuttling the peace talks”.

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has been trying in vain to hold talks with the Afghan Taliban for long and had hoped that any breakthrough his influential neighbour made with the Pakistan Taliban would translate into some respite for his country, where the Taliban see him as a stooge of Washington.

Expectedly, on Monday, the militant organisation called off the peace talks, describing the Sharif government as a “puppet” regime.

Few tears

But outside this narrow circle of self-serving politics and politicians, not many tears will be shed for the man infamous for his ruthless streak. Hakimullah was first the trusted bodyguard and then driver of the Pakistan Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud.

But he and his group, in a loosely knit network of extremists, shot to fame first in August 2007 when they took hostage nearly 300 security persons in South Waziristan, forcing the Musharraf government to release 25 terrorists in a swap operation.

After that his rise was meteoric and when Baitullah was killed in a drone attack in August 2009, Hakumullah was chosen to succeed from among several contenders. He was seen to bethe most daring and cruel, had great combat and leadership skills, and had planned and executed several terrorist attacks against the Pakistani administration and, more importantly, against the “hated Americans”. He must have not only raised the loudest cries of “Death to America”, he was also responsible for attacking and capturing several NATO trucks that passed through Pakistan’s border regions en route to Afghanistan.

After his anointment as Pakistan Taliban’s chief, Hakimullah struck lethal blows on the Pakistan government, perceived as being “soft” on Washington, through a series of deadly terrorist attacks in October 2009. This included the outrageous attack on the Pakistan army’s general headquarters in Rawalpindi, where over 20 people were killed, including a brigadier and a colonel.

But what would have angered the US the most was that under Hakimullah’s leadership, the Pakistan Taliban cosied up much more to the Al Qaeda and its chief bragged about his role in the suicide attack in Afghanistan in December 2009 in which seven CIA agents were killed. This, he proclaimed, was revenge for Baitullah’s killing.

Pakistan’s total humiliation

At the political level Pakistan’s humiliation is total: that a foreign power can enter your territory and kill at will. That’s what happened when Osama bin Laden was hunted down, his body removed and disposed of even before the Pakistan establishment got a whiff of it.

And scores of other times when American drones targeted terrorist outfits in Pakistan, often killing, as “collateral damage”, civilians and even Pakistani soldiers, leaving the government seething and red-faced, but unable to do anything about it.

Well, this is what happens when you subjugate yourself to a superpower with the sole intent of getting kickbacks as baksheesh to harm your enemy, in this case, India.

We in India are furious with our Government for the state of the nation and its economy today thanks to the misgovernance and corruption of the UPA II regime.

But despite the economic blues, despite the falling off the radar in the last couple of years of the Indian growth story, nobody can accuse India of being the stooge of any superpower, as Pakistan has been over long decades.

In conversations, Pakistanis themselves rue the total surrender of successive governments to Uncle Sam, referring to the US as “Our Master’s Voice”, and saying contemptuously that they dance to US tunes “for a few bread crumbs”.

But what cannot be denied is that terrorism, of the Pakistan Taliban variety or other types of insurgency in the Kashmir Valley, is a genie that often consumes its creator. For long years the Pakistani establishment has harboured and befriended the militants of Afghanistan… in different avatars of the mujahideen, Taliban and a myriad of other groups.

Ironically, it did this first at the behest of the US which was taking on the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan.

But before it could say Uncle Sam, a part of this monster took on the form of the Pakistan Taliban and turned its attacks and suicide bombings on its erstwhile benefactor. Well, those who live by the sword die by it too.

Taliban’s worst crime

But for me, the killing of both the Mehsuds is good news because of what their organisation has done to Pakistan’s girls and women.

I have seen the most liberal of women in Karachi and Lahore covering their heads when in public because their families have received open threats of dire consequences if they “don’t control their women”. At the risk of sounding bloodthirsty, I’d say some justice has finally been done. For there is no greater crime than denying education to a child.

I’m just back from a conference organised by the Qatar Foundation in Doha where some of the world’s top educators, NGOs, politicians, social activist and others discussed over three days urgent action — and funds — required to get the 57 million children who are out of schools, to some form of learning.

Unfortunately the world is seeing only more violence and more conflict… the Syrian conflict has forced two million children out of schools.

Thanks to the Taliban in Pakistan and Afghanistan who bombed girls’ schools and threatened their families, an entire generation of girls was denied this fundamental right. And by stealing their education, the Taliban destroyed their future. Mehsuds’ killing is just revenge for such warped and twisted ideology.