Maulana Fazlullah is the leader of the Swat Valley Taliban. He is cruel, despotic, manipulative, and ambitious. He is also a charismatic preacher whose sermons inspired many of his listeners to adopt his brand of militant Islam. In his early speeches, Fazlullah focused on exhorting all Muslims to live a life of piety. As proof of his civic consciousness, he decried the corrupt nature of the Pakistani government and railed against the unfair khan feudal system. As a result, many of his followers came to see the Taliban as an emancipating force, the standard-bearers of a purer form of Islam, and a trusted preserver of Islamic civilization.
Fazlullah's elevated rhetoric increased his public support, but his words concealed a diabolical plan to institute religious totalitarianism in the Swat Valley. By the time the Taliban began inflicting widespread violence on the unsuspecting valley, the people were defenseless against the onslaught. Eventually, Fazlullah outlawed DVDs, CDs, and TVs. He also unilaterally set up his own shura (court) and had criminal offenders publicly whipped. With his father-in-law in prison for reneging on his promise of peace, Fazlullah had free reign over the Swat Valley. He began sanctioning acts of brutal violence against women and girls who lived what he considered a forbidden Western lifestyle. Dancers like Shabana were stalked, cornered, and murdered in cold blood. Women who failed to appear in public with a male escort or who neglected to don the full burqa were subjected to cruel public whippings. As a militant, Fazlullah embraces the Salafi-jihadi ideology, which maintains that the Muslim world's military, political, and economic decline is the direct result of a conspiratorial anti-Islamic Western alliance. Salafi-jhadis believe that the only way to restore Islam to its former glory is to remake the whole world into a Muslim caliphate. Based on this worldview, violent jihad is a necessary weapon against global resistance. For his part, Fazlullah was able to increase his ranks by convincing his trusting followers that the Taliban's utopian caliphate would bring honor, riches, and renown to oppressed Muslims.