December 4, 2012: In an unusual move, Pakistan has offered a very large reward ($2 million) for the capture of Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan. While this guy is the front man for the Taliban in Pakistan, what has earned him such a high price on his head was his public pronouncements about a 15 year old Pakistani girl (Malala Yousufzai) a Taliban death squad tried to murder. Back on October 9th, in Pakistan's Swat Valley, Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head by a Taliban assassin. Two other girls on her school bus were wounded. Yousufzai has become famous in Pakistan over the last three years by opposing Taliban efforts to prevent girls from going to school. She began by writing an anonymous blog about her experiences trying to get an education despite Taliban opposition. Eventually she went public and the Taliban threatened retaliation, but few thought the terrorists would attack an individual teenage girl (many teenage girls have been killed by Taliban bombs). Never underestimate the Taliban, especially when it comes to deliberately killing children.
Yousufzai survived the shooting and was moved to Britain for further medical care and better protection from further Taliban attacks. Meanwhile, the Taliban took credit for the shooting, which caused an anti-Taliban uproar throughout the country. Ehsanullah Ehsan enthusiastically defended the Taliban attempts to kill a 15 year old girl who had defied the Islamic radicals. The government promptly offered a $100,000 reward for the capture of the shooter and this apparently worked, as the government quickly caught most of the death squad sent after the girl. Conservative Islamic clerics who usually approve of the Taliban policy on education for women have been silent about this murder attempt. The Pakistani media and public opinion however was outraged. Ehsanullah Ehsan became the target of much of this hate, and now the Pakistani government is willing to pay $2 million to get their hands on this fellow. The government believes that if they can prosecute and punish Ehsanullah Ehsan they will make the Taliban even more unpopular than they currently are. Since the Pakistani Taliban is a coalition of different groups, concentrating on Ehsanullah Ehsan and the shooting of Malala Yousufzai may be enough to cause the coalition to unravel and become much less of a threat.
Pakistan had earlier offered rewards of up to $600,000 for Taliban leaders, without much effect. The Swat Valley has been a battleground between the army and the Taliban for years. The Pakistani Taliban claims to have regained control of much of the tribal territories, including the Swat Valley (which is actually adjacent to the tribal territories). This is propaganda, not reality. The Pakistani Taliban still have armed men in many parts of the tribal territories, often operating from bases across the border in Afghanistan but they have little control over these areas and are constantly hunted by the army and police.
The Pakistani Taliban are still very much at war with Pakistan and are loudly striving to "avenge" the death of Osama bin Laden and other foreign terrorists who had come to help the Pakistani Taliban. Attacks like those against Malala Yousufzai are supposed to remind everyone that the Taliban are still around.
The Taliban took control of the Swat Valley for two years in 2007, and were then driven out by the army. But there remained a lot of hostility towards the government. It's all about corruption and lack of a rule of law. The Taliban got in partly on the promise of driving out corrupt government officials and providing fair Islamic courts. The Taliban then destroyed their popularity by also trying to impose unpopular lifestyle rules (no schools or jobs for women, no video, music, or shaving for men). The government brought back the corruption, despite knowing this was a major problem. This has driven some Swat Valley residents to support the Taliban again. But those supporters were appalled by the shooting of Malala Yousufzai.