Posts Tagged ‘TTP’

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times in three parts. The first part was published on September 30, 2013, the second part on October 1, 2013 and the last part was carried by Pakistan Daily Times on October 2, 2013. For convenience of the readers I’ve cross-posted all the three parts together, on my blog, from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

Pakistan is fast plunging into the hands of extremist and radical elements. The Taliban hold sway in the lawless territory of Waziristan and the tribal areas along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. The situation has deteriorated so much that we now have a state-within-the-state of Pakistan: the ‘Islamic Emirate of Waziristan’, a terrorist safe haven. In a report titled, “As if Hell Fell on Me: The Human Rights Crisis in Northwest Pakistan” released in 2010, the human rights group Amnesty International claimed that nearly four million people were effectively living under the Taliban rule in the north-western tribal belt and were abandoned by the Pakistani government.

On another note, the Taliban are now infiltrating major cities of Pakistan in general and Karachi in particular. During the Supreme Court hearings last year, judges had ordered the authorities to investigate reports that as many as 8,000 Taliban members were in Pakistan’s largest city and economic epicentre. In short, the writing on the wall is very clear for all those who have not turned a blind eye to it. The Pakistani Taliban are turning out to be more and more daring, making unprecedented inroads into the sovereignty of our homeland. On the other hand, the response of our nation to the Taliban’s aggression has been disoriented, indecisive and dishonest at large, thanks to two mainstream political parties, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf, and right-wing religio-political parties. While the aforementioned parties have acted as kind of a moderate mouthpiece for the Taliban, advocating their case in a bid to appease them, the right-wing religio-political parties portrayed the Taliban as righteous Muslims striving to establish ‘Shariah’ rule in the land of the pure. Consequently, the state of Pakistan, reeling from the relentless terrorist attacks, looks all set to bow down to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP’s) onslaught that has killed more than 49,000 Pakistanis in the last 12 years or so. From 2001 to 2008, more than 24,000 people — both civilians and military — were killed in terrorist attacks carried out by the TTP and company. The last five years turned out to be even more ruinous in terms of the loss of human lives. Since 2008, the TTP’s campaign of terror has killed well over 25,000 people and counting.

Burnt rooms inside a prison are seen following a Taliban attack in Dera Ismail Khan July 30, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

Burnt rooms inside a prison are seen following a Taliban attack in Dera Ismail Khan July 30, 2013. PHOTO: REUTERS

Mass killings aside, the TTP has been incredibly successful in breaking jails at will and getting its operatives free without even a shred of resistance from the security forces. The Dera Ismail Khan (D I Khan) jailbreak is one of the most violent attacks in recent times. Well over 100 Taliban fighters, armed with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, freed 248 prisoners, including more than 49 hardcore militants belonging to the TTP and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Not only did the militants manage to free their accomplices, but they also killed six policemen and two civilians. The terrorists had so much of inside information that they killed six Shia inmates after segregating them from other prisoners during the three hour-long attack. One of the Shia inmates was beheaded. Many of the high-profile inmates who fled from the jail belong to the LeJ, which signifies a strong bond between the Taliban and Haq Nawaz Jhangvi’s disciples.

In a blatant show of apathy, not a single quantum of armed reinforcements was sent to the scene though the attackers remained in the jail for a good three to four hours. Military helicopters remained firmly grounded. A large caravan of the Taliban sailed through dozens of army check posts, set up on the road leading to North Waziristan from D I Khan. Those responsible for the internal and external security of Pakistan did not even move or probably they did not bother to.

In a usual turn of affairs, the TTP claimed the responsibility for the devastating attack on DI Khan Central Jail. Six days later, a senior TTP commander revealed the details of the brazen siege, adding that all the freed TTP men were in safe locations and would resume their “routine responsibilities”. According to him, a total of 125 militants took part in the operation that was launched by three groups (the Punjabi Taliban, Halqa-e-Mehsud and a group from the Mohmand Agency). While the latter two groups are unheard of, the first one sounds quite familiar.

Who are the Punjabi Taliban? The term was first coined in 2011 by the then interior minister of Pakistan, Rehman Malik, which received heavy criticism from the then Punjab chief minister, Mian Shahbaz Sharif. He ‘warned’ Malik to avoid using the term because he was of the view that the term would tarnish the PML-N’s image. “It minimises our chances of coming into power because the Punjab province is being run by the PML-N,” said Sharif who was clearly more worried about the term than the growing militant threat in his province, especially southern Punjab.

That was not the only show of ‘parochial’ politics from the chief minister. This statement was equally bad as the well-known plea he made to the Taliban in March 2010. Speaking at a seminar held at the Jamia Naeemia mosque in Lahore, the Punjab chief minister had requested the Taliban to spare his province Punjab from terror attacks because his party shared a common cause with the Taliban.

The Punjabi Taliban is an umbrella organisation of different banned militant groups largely based in the southernmost region of Punjab. Major factions of the Punjabi Taliban compris members of outlawed terror outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), long protected and patronised by Pakistan’s powerful military and intelligence establishment.

Formed in 1996 by Riaz Basra of the SSP, the LeJ today has deep links with al Qaeda and the Taliban. The group is believed to be the most violent anti-Shia group operating in Pakistan. Contrary to popular belief, in my opinion, LeJ and SSP are not two separate outfits. The two groups are two sides of the same coin although both the SSP and LeJ maintain that they are not affiliated to each other. As they say, actions speak louder than words; the SSP leadership has never criticised the LeJ because the two groups share the same agenda of turning Pakistan into a Deobandi republic. Both the groups draw their inspiration from the same man: Haq Nawaz Jhangvi. Their cadres come from the same religious seminaries. I strongly believe that the gimmick of portraying SSP and LeJ as two separate entities — ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Jhangvis — is embellished by the very same mindset that coined the theory of the Good and Bad Taliban.

SSP, now known as the Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat, draws support, inspiration and reinforcement from various religio-political parties, largely the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Jamiat-e-Ulema-i-Islam (JUI). A large number of religious seminaries, being run by the JUI, provide recruiting grounds for the LeJ, Jundullah, Punjabi Taliban, TTP and even al Qaeda. It may be surprising news to some of my readers that the current head of the TTP, Hakeemullah Mehsud, found his way into militancy through the SSP. Later, he was ‘elevated’ to the Taliban, yet another evidence of the increasing collaboration between Deobandi militant groups in Pakistan. JeM supported the insurgency against India in Jammu and Kashmir. Speaking at a jihad conference in October 2000, the JeM chief, Masood Azhar said, “…Now we go hand-in-hand, and Sipah-e-Sahaba stands shoulder to shoulder with Jaish-e-Muhammad in Jihad.”

Over time the Punjabi Taliban developed strong connections with the TTP, the Afghan Taliban, Tehreek-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi and various other militant groups based in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and FATA. The group increasingly provided the footsloggers to the TTP and al Qaeda for terrorist acts and has played an instrumental role in attacking Shia, Sufi, Ahmadi and other civilian targets across Pakistan.

The TTP dealt an extraordinarily pernicious blow soon after the PML-N government took charge after the May 11 elections. The terrorists stormed into a base camp at the foot of Pakistan’s second-highest peak, Nanga Parbat, highlighting the growing reach of terrorists in even the remotest areas as 10 foreign mountaineers — part of an expedition — were dragged out of their camps, tied, lined up and shot dead. Among the dead, however, there was only one Pakistani, Ali Hussain, a high altitude porter but a Shia Muslim by faith, who was targeted because of his denomination. The then spokesperson for the TTP, Ehsanullah Ehsan, claimed that the group’s faction named Junood-e-Hafsa carried out the attack to avenge the killing of a Taliban commander, Waliur Rehman, who was killed in a US drone attack in North Waziristan. Junood-e-Hafsa is a new group formed by the TTP headed by Punjabi Taliban chief, Asmatullah Muawiya.

Letter to the PML-N Govt by the Punjabi Taliban

Letter to the PML-N Govt by the Punjabi Taliban

After coming into power, the PML-N government decided to abolish a five-year moratorium on capital punishment and execute hardcore terrorists on death row. The decision met with a hostile reception from the Punjabi Taliban as their chief, Muawiya, warned against hanging their men or else the executions would compel them to wage a war against the PML-N government. The statement, signed by Muawiya, urged the PML-N to bear in mind the fate of the Awami National Party (ANP). The ANP was relentlessly targeted during the May 11 election campaign. At the time the Punjabi Taliban issued this statement, the authorities were making final arrangements to execute the mastermind of the GHQ attack, Aqeel alias Dr Usman, and two other LeJ operatives in Faisalabad and Sukkur jails respectively.

The aforementioned statement was followed by another intimidating statement. The TTP threatened that it would immediately target two prominent leaders of the ruling party if Aqeel was executed on August 23, 2013, as scheduled. “Aqeel alias Dr Usman is our ‘Mujahid’ and we would never let the government hang our Mujahid,” said the statement released by a TTP spokesperson. It is pertinent to note here that at the time the five-year moratorium lapsed, the government ignored the concerns of national and international human rights groups saying that it will go ahead with executions to take on festering militancy in the country.

The threats worked and the TTP coerced the PML-N government into extending the moratorium on the death penalty. Muawiya was quick to appreciate the government’s decision to halt all state executions. The Punjabi Taliban reciprocated the PML-N’s favour by welcoming the offer made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in his maiden televised address to the nation, to hold peace talks with all the terrorist groups operating in the country. In a statement, Muawiya praised the prime minister for demonstrating “political maturity” by reiterating his offer to hold a dialogue. However, this lovey-dovey liaison of the PML-N government and the Punjabi Taliban didn’t go down well with the TTP. The terrorist organisation dismissed Muawiya for giving the aforementioned statements without prior approval from the TTP’s central leadership. Muawiya, however, refused to accept the TTP’s dismissal, claiming that the TTP had no authority to sack him. He said that the Punjabi Taliban has its own identity as well as its ‘Shura’ (executive council) to take such decisions.

The All Parties Conference (APC) held on September 9 came up with an ‘ostrich-like’ response to tackle the existential threat faced by our country today. The APC resolution — signed by all parties participating — is a pusillanimous document of national shame and unconditional surrender to the terrorists termed as ‘our own people’ in the declaration. The blood of thousands of Pakistanis was sold and it was sold for free. Terms like Taliban, TTP, terrorists were not even mentioned in the resolution, drafted with utmost care, just like in some families, a newlywed bride would not address her husband by his name. The Taliban — who do not recognise the constitution of Pakistan, our way of life, our institutions, our education system, and religious belief systems — were not only forgiven, they were accredited with the status of rightful stakeholders of Pakistan.

Four days later, a triumphant Imran Khan declared the APC successful while boasting about his 12-year-old stance on the issue finally being supported by all participants of the APC. The PTI chief declared the APC resolution a vindication of the PTI’s stance to tackle growing terrorism through unconditional dialogue. Quite interestingly, the TTP chief, Hakeemullah Mehsud, had declared the same a triumph of his group. “We have succeeded politically after we were asked to negotiate by the government,” said Mehsud in a letter he wrote to the media in April this year. Congratulations, Mr Khan. Now when we have washed our hands of our slain countrymen, who were killed in the last 12 years or so, will you please care to tell us how you will convince ‘your own people’ to refrain from killing non-Muslims and ‘lesser’ Muslims, especially Shias, in the name of Allah?

Two days later, the TTP tried to put the brakes on Mr Khan’s bragging as they killed GOC Swat Major General Sanaullah Khan, along with a lieutenant colonel and another soldier, in a roadside bomb attack. The attack on the military convoy was followed by the deadliest attack on the Christian community in Pakistan. More than 80 Christians were butchered as a pair of suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the All Saints Church in Peshawar. A faction of the TTP, Junood-ul-Hifsa, claimed responsibility within hours of the attack. A spokesman for the group, Ahmadullah, justified the attack by arguing that their children and women too were being killed in US drone strikes and in military operations in the tribal areas.

Coffins of the victims of Hazara Town Blast

Coffins of the victims of Hazara Town Blast

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, speaking at a press conference in Peshawar, Imran Khan condemned those who “were painting the attack in a political light” but, not so surprisingly, could not condemn the Taliban who carried out the attack. He termed the attack as a conspiracy to sabotage peace talks with the Taliban. Pointing towards the conspiracy, he questioned why such attacks occurred whenever any talk of dialogue progressed. One might ask him if the attack on All Saints Church was a conspiracy to derail the dialogue process, what on earth did the attacks on Alamdaar Road, Hazara Town, Abbas Town, Parachinar market, Nanga Parbat Base Camp derail? But, of course, asking such a question will barely be a popular course of action.

Lo and behold! ‘Our own people’ have refused a ceasefire and, in addition, they have set preconditions for a dialogue with the government of Pakistan. “No one has contacted us for peace talks, not even a tribal jirga has approached us. If they (government) want to end this war, they will have to announce a ceasefire,” says a spokesperson for our own people — the TTP. The tone of the Taliban clearly suggests that they are talking from a position of strength and the government of Pakistan from a position of weakness.

Those who vehemently advocate talks with the Taliban argue that since we could not defeat them in the last eight years, therefore, we must talk to them. The argument sounds like since we failed to defeat the Taliban, therefore, we must kneel down, fold our hands, and maybe seek a congregational apology from the TTP and if we aren’t forgiven, we are dying to forgive them the blood of more than 49,000 Pakistanis without bothering about the heirs of those killed. Interestingly, the same mindset that is hell bent on forgiving the Taliban for their crimes against humanity, in the name of Allah, is not even ready to accept the existence of the TTP.

Peace deals with the TTP have repeatedly failed over the years and even when they succeeded, agreements were violated quite quickly. The state handed over Swat Valley and its surrounding areas to the Taliban in 2009. Under the peace agreement, the government agreed to impose Islamic law in the Malakand division in hopes that the Taliban would lay down their arms. But the peace deal only ended up in emboldening them. The Taliban did not keep their end of the agreement and soon entered the adjacent Buner district to impose their brand of Islam. The peace deal that did not last for more than a month collapsed after the Taliban attacked an army convoy in Swat Valley. A day before the attack, which killed one soldier, the Taliban beheaded two government officials, in ‘gross violation’ of the deal.

As the wise old adage says, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. Ironically, we are being fooled for the nth time. The only way to restore peace in Pakistan is to nip the evil in the bud. Stop the funding coming from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states for different religious seminaries. A US diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks revealed that financial support estimated at $ 100 million a year was making its way from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to an extremists’ network in Punjab province, which recruits children as young as eight to wage the ‘holy war’. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out the activities in which these brainwashed young militants are used.

When you are in a war, time is of the essence. Whilst the state is wasting its precious time in appeasing and convincing the TTP for a dialogue, the TTP is using it to regroup, reorganise and to hit back harder. We need to tackle the Taliban and their affiliates with an iron fist. It’s better to go down fighting than to be killed like sitting ducks. As Elizabeth Kenny said, “It’s better to be a lion for a day than a sheep all your life.” It’s time to choose one of the two options: Pakistan or the Taliban.

Source:

VIEW : Punjabi Taliban, TTP and the APC — I — Ali Salman Alvi

VIEW : Punjabi Taliban, TTP and the APC — II — Ali Salman Alvi

VIEW: Punjabi Taliban, TTP and the APC — III —Ali Salman Alvi

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Imran khan

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in The Nation on September 29, 2013. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from The Nation without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

It’s a matter of great surprise and national shame that the Pakistani Taliban, till date, do not have a central office of their own in the land of the pure. What a crying shame that the outfit from Pakistan that consistently made headlines in national and international media is deprived of an official, but easily approachable, headquarters in its own country. No prizes for guessing the only level-headed, incredibly knowledgeable and clear-sighted leader, in a country where all other leaders can’t see beyond the end of their nose. Yes, none other than PTI chairman Imran Khan realized the need for an office for the Taliban at a time when the Christian community had just buried their dead from the double suicide attack on the historic All Saints Church in Peshawar that killed 85 worshippers and injured more than 100.

Talking to the media after visiting injured persons of the Peshawar church bombing at the Lady Reading Hospital, Imran Khan called on the federal government to allow the Pakistani Taliban to open an office in Pakistan similar to the Afghan Taliban office in Qatar to facilitate the dialogue process if it was serious about holding peace talks with them. It is tough to determine if the attempt of putting a “balm” on the wounds of the Christian community was successful or not, but one thing is for sure; You cannot even think to doubt the noble intentions of his holiness Imran Khan and if you are bent on doing so, do it at your own risk. God forbid if a fake liberal mutters the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions make sure you don’t let him/her go without giving him/her what he/she deserves.

Unfortunately, the short-sighted and myopic civil society couldn’t see what the farsighted Taliban Khan, err, I mean Kaptan Khan did. As a matter of fact all genuine liberals are a part of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf and, apart from Asad Umar, none of them has voiced concerns over Mr. Khan’s statement. Only fake liberals are censuring the Great Khan on social media for his demand for an office for the Taliban. But there is nothing to worry about those foul-mouthed liberals because Khan’s social media warriors will take good care of them. We, the Pakistanis, must not act like thankless goofs and should thank our lucky stars that we now have a leader whose message of change is resonating across the length and breadth of Pakistan.

Though yours truly can’t match the sagacity of Imran Khan but I strongly feel that the TTP’s office in Pakistan will turn out to be a step in the “right” direction and it will usher a new era of peace and prosperity in the region. Not only will it help curtail the increasing unemployment –  by creating new job opportunities –  but also reduce the growing population which leads to unemployment, by blasting a few. Killing two birds with one stone, something an ordinary man would have not even thought about!

Every time a drone strike takes place on Pakistani soil, the Taliban officials, not terrorists, will scare the hell out of Americans by carrying out a suicide bombing on the same soil. Telephone calls claiming responsibility for an attack will now be a thing of the past. In order to treat all media outlets equally, the Taliban spokesman will now be holding a press briefing at the organization’s office after every attack and thus no news channel would be able to take the credit of breaking the news first. Lack of breaking news would inevitably lead to lesser sensation.

In addition, the Taliban’s office would be needing security due to the fears of a retaliatory attack by the survivors of a suicide bombing on the holy office. The same office can also be hit by a US drone. Imran Khan might have to ask the federal government to deploy paramilitary/military personnel to save the sacred office from a ground attack. And to protect the office from a possible drone strike, Imran Khan could call on the federal government to order the Air Chief to strike down the drones flying anywhere near the sacred office. After all it’s the responsibility of the state of Pakistan to safeguard its own people from any aggression, be it internal or external.

In addition, to make the environment more conducive for the proposed peace talks, Imran Khan should appeal the TTP to get registered with the Election Commission of Pakistan so that certain political parties can do something else than acting as their political front.

In a bid to remove mystifications about the Taliban, Imran Khan might have to call on the PEMRA to issue a license to the TTP to operate its own television channel given that the Taliban are righteous and pious Muslims and they might not want to watch channels airing news bulletins featuring female anchorpersons without any scarf. Moreover, such a channel will help in conveying the Taliban’s view point to the masses without any depravity. The Taliban will also be allowed to air videos of different suicide bombings, beheading ceremonies and similar stuff.

A Taliban office in the country will also help in creating a soft image of Pakistan in the international community that was badly distorted by, a CIA agent, Malala Yousafzai who made her way to London, after surviving a staged attack in Swat, to malign the angelic Taliban.

The TTP office will also keep a record of its members operating in and out of Pakistan since a few of them have been exported to Syria to fight alongside the rebel forces to oust Bashar al-Assad’s from power. In case a branch office is needed in Syria, Imran Khan can always call on the federal government again to help them in setting up one. After all they are “our own people” and to facilitate them is our first and foremost duty.

So what if the TTP set pre-conditions for the peace talks, killed a Major General, Lieutenant The Nation, Ali Salman AlviColonel, other army personnel and 85 Christians in the immediate aftermath of the APC, held on September 9, which set new national record of appeasing “our own people”. All in all, Imran Khan’s demand of a TTP office in Pakistan speaks volumes about his unparalleled prudence and consummate level-headedness. Haters will hate but Khan will scintillate. Keep it up Mr. Khan.

Source: Keep it up Mr Khan

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was originally published in Daily Times on December 29, 2012. I’m pleased to cross-post the article on my blog from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

The reprehensible murder of Bashir Bilour is not only the Awami National Party’s (ANP) loss but it is a dent in the war against extremism that is fought by all progressive and peace-loving Pakistanis. “It is our fight and we will die fighting,” said Senior Minister Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Bashir Bilour just a day before he was martyred in a suicide blast. It was the third assassination attempt on his life that proved fatal. Despite having survived two suicide attacks earlier, the ANP’s stalwart remained undeterred against the Taliban and their ideology of barbarity.

The ANP’s leadership has been relentlessly targeted by the Tehreek-e-Taliban (TTP) Pakistan for their staunch stance against them. Almost 700 party workers and four leaders of the ANP have been killed by the Taliban. A man of his word, Mr Bilour, indeed died fighting terrorists and their nefarious plans of hijacking Pakistan. His murder is not about just Peshawar, the ANP, Pashtuns, KPK or Pakistan for that matter; it is about humanity that was brutalised, terrorised and butchered. Terming it revenge for the murder of Sheikh Naseeb Khan, the TTP claimed the responsibility of the blast that also left nine others dead and 17 wounded. Khan was an instructor at Darul-Uloom-Haqqania, a religious seminary located in Akora Khattak, dubbed the ‘University of Jihad’ due to methods and content of instruction along with future occupations of their alumni. The seminary propagates the Deobandi trend of Sunni Islam and was founded by Maulana Abdul Haq, father of Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, along the lines of Darul Uloom Deoband. It is also famous for having many senior leaders of the Afghanistan Taliban among its alumni, including Mullah Omar, and its role in supporting the Taliban. Not to mention that Pakistan’s FIA has claimed that the plan to assassinate Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto was hatched at the same seminary.

Lest you forget, dear reader, let me remind you a joint protest was staged by the workers of the JUI-F, JUI-S, Jamaat-e-Islami and Sipah-e-Sahaba (Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat) in front of the Peshawar High Court demanding the arrest of the killers of the same cleric whose murder is avenged by the Pakistani Taliban. It does not take a rocket scientist to understand that the radical groups that have been dismantling peace are all affiliated with the TTP. The workers of these parties share the same school of thought as that of the Taliban. On the other hand, the apologetic discourse of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban is empowering the one outfit that is responsible for callous atrocities on both sides of the Pak-Afghan border. While the bad Taliban are responsible for thousands of ruthless murders in Pakistan, the good Taliban are the perpetrators of massacres of the thousands of Shias in Mazar-e-Sharif and Bamiyan. There is no difference at all between the two categories of the Taliban.

With terrorism peaking in Pakistan, the only institution — the Pakistan army — that has the potential to halt the ever-increasing menace of terrorism is reluctant to take the bull by the horns. For more than two decades, the elite of Pakistan army and some government officials envisaged the Mujahideen and then the Taliban as strategic assets to be used to foster their interests on the other side of the Durand Line.

Presently, Pakistan is going through one of the most crucial phases in its history given many tribal areas are without any writ of the government. War is upon us and we are being attacked every day. More than 40,000 Pakistanis have lost their lives and we are still not ready to own this war waged upon us. Probably every war is fought on at least two grounds: one is the battleground and the other is the minds of the people via propaganda. Nothing has hurt Pakistan more than the propaganda of the good and bad Taliban. It has essentially turned our nation in a mob with confused minds. According to this propaganda, those Taliban who are present in Pakistan but operate on the other side of the Pak-Afghan border against the occupational forces are good Taliban, while those who are carrying out terrorist activities inside Pakistan are bad. Have the genius minds behind this theory spared a thought about the situation in the region after the US-led coalition mission ends in December 2014? Will the good Taliban lay down their arms and start selling miswak sticks for a living? What will keep these overenthusiastic jihadists limited to Afghanistan?

Wars are fought and won by nations and not only the armed forces. Pakistan army is fighting the extremists but this war can only be won with the support of the public and not with a mob with split minds and depleted souls. If we are unable to root out this monster now, terrorism and extremism would eat up the entire body fabric of our society.

During the 1990s when the Taliban movement, thanks to the Pakistani mullah-military alliance, was on the rise in Afghanistan, a group of mullahs gathered outside the Lahore High Court on May 15, 1994. They were chanting slogans ‘Kabul kay baad, Islamabad. Taliban! Taliban!’(After Kabul, Islamabad. Taliban! Taliban!). They had assembled for the hearing of a review petition on the capital punishment awarded to two Pakistani Christians, the 14-year-old Salamat Masih and 46-year-old Rehmat Masih. The Lahore High Court judge, Arif Iqbal Hussain Bhatti, acquitted both of them only to be killed in his chamber later by an unidentified man for giving that very verdict. Last month, an Additional District and Sessions Judge granted bail to the man accused of killing Shahbaz Bhatti. Need I say more?
As the demands for a military operation in North Waziristan grow, it is pertinent to note that Pakistan cannot win this war by launching operations in only the restive areas. The hand that is feeding and sponsoring the centres of these militants — the religious seminaries — that continue to produce fresh stocks of militants and thus keep providing recruiting grounds to the militant outfits of the likes of LeJ, TTP and al Qaeda must be chopped. If the intent is clear and sincere then we have to eradicate the root cause of terrorism and extremism in Pakistan. If the objective is to launch another operation for the sake of an operation then I see no hope of having peace in Pakistan.

Since its independence, Pakistan has become a strategic player in the subcontinent free of terrorism, which has begun feeding itself on the home turf now. Pakistan has to move ahead with global giants whereas internal crisis is weakening the might of an otherwise prospering nation where the common Pakistani is facing the brunt of terrorism. Of course, sovereignty of the state of Pakistan matters the most, without any external interference. The onus now lies upon government in the upcoming elections, which will weed out germination of terrorism.

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear,” wrote Mark Twain. Bashir Bilour resisted and mastered the fear with unparalleled courage. He had the guts to stand up to his views unlike many other cowards who live on fake and hollow slogans of America bashing. His ruthless murder is a serious blow to the aspirations of peace in Pakistan but the resolve of his son to not to surrender to the Taliban is a ray of hope. Mr Bilour, I would always remember the courage you showed against the TTP and anti state elements in the face of death. We have lost a true hero in you. May you rest in eternal peace, Sir.

Source: VIEW: Blackguards of fanaticism silenced Bashir Bilour —Ali Salman Alvi

Editor’s NOTE: The following op-ed, penned by me, was published in Daily Times on May 5, 2012.  It was my first ever write-up to have been featured in any newspaper. I’m pleased to cross-post that article from Daily Times without any editing. (Ali Salman Alvi)

The syndrome of religious fanaticism, intolerance and so-called moral evangelism is eroding the fabric of Pakistani society. Whilst we have been hijacked by the might of radicalism, as a nation we have refused to budge over the gravity of the situation using different covers to hide under, therefore turning a blind eye to the severity of the repercussions of such plausible deniability. It is a lack of veracity most of us suffer from; it is an incurable version of dementia and selective amnesia, and on top of that, we are consistently smothering our willpower to recover from such a horrible state of affairs. Without offering significant resistance, we are fast sliding into the depths of chauvinism, hatred and intolerance.

The seeds of militancy that were planted in the land of the pure in the name of jihad back in the 1980s are bearing their own ‘fruits’ on a full fledged scale now. It is indispensable to learn that terrorism in Pakistan did not emerge after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. In fact, the 9/11 attacks invigorated the terrorist groups in Pakistan, which at that time were exclusively engaged in persecuting Shias and other minorities including Ahmedis, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs, apart from launching a hate campaign against the aforementioned communities as a germane mission. Rubbing salt into the wounds, the cancer of extremism and sympathy with the Taliban has penetrated so deep in our people that it requires a major surgery to stand any chance of recovering from the deteriorating condition that, if not controlled, may cause anarchy in the restive land. On top of all this, the undeniable presence of the militant mindset in the midst of the very security agencies intended to eradicate it is indeed terrifying.

One cannot repudiate sharing of inside intelligence information and some tactical assistance in the suicide attack on a Special Services Group mess in September 2007 to the unprecedented attack by militants on the Central Jail, Bannu to free their comrades a few days back. At least 20 commandos were killed and another 25 injured in a suicide blast at an army officers’ mess almost five years ago, whereas in what is being described as the biggest jailbreak in the country’s history, over 100 militants stormed the central jail in Bannu and freed 384 inmates. Heavily armed insurgents appeared to be in control of the prison for more than two hours. The guards offered little or no resistance after the militants asked them to step aside. A militant commander who helped plan the assault on the Bannu jail said his group had inside information. “We had maps of the area and we had complete maps and plans of the jail as well,” said the commander, a senior member of the Taliban. Needless to say, the police arrived at the scene when the militants had escaped after completing their mission successfully.

The astonishing developments in the aforementioned brazen attacks signify to what extent the Taliban and their sympathisers have penetrated into our security agencies and the imminent threat that it poses for us. The murder of Shaheed Salmaan Taseer by one of his security guards, an elite force personnel, last year in January is yet another warning of the potential repercussions when those intended to extirpate terrorism or protect others from the wrath of the terrorists instead join hands with them.

It is acknowledged that since the 1980s, the extremist groups, conspicuously the Sipah-e- Sahaba Pakistan, now known as Ahl e Sunnat Wal Jamat (a Salafi/Wahabi militant group), backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab states, made a conscious effort to induce radical elements in the law enforcing agencies and bureaucracy. Their efforts are believed to have succeeded to a significant degree. It is evident that the penetration by terrorists into our security and administrative infrastructure goes quite deep. The state of Pakistan needs to devise a plan to conduct a purge, single out these abominable elements and oust them from the heart of our law enforcing agencies and other institutions before they strike again sitting from the inside, using their positions and knowledge to inflict maximum damage. Such elements should be served with exemplary punishments so that the trend to help these militants in the name of Islam/Shariah can be prevented to good effect.

War against the enemy within is not going to be easy. It requires a strong intent and a firm belief that despite the horrendous state of affairs, we can still win this war. Unless we do not internalise that the major threat to the stability of Pakistan is from within, we would be helping the cause of anti-state elements inevitably. Forget about the rhetoric of blaming the RA&W, the CIA and other foreign agencies for the time being, and try to ponder where those with sympathies for the Taliban, and an eagerness to act on their behest, lurk. That said, I am not ruling out the involvement of some foreign forces to destabilise Pakistan. However, we have to realise that at the end of the day, it is a bunch of hardcore militants, belonging to different sects, inside Pakistan, combined for one common agenda, who are carrying out all these terrorist activities not only internally, but are involved in cross-border terrorism as well. Vehement finger pointing at others is always easy, but battling the enemy within is definitely not a walk in the park.

Source: Daily Times http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2012%5C05%5C05%5Cstory_5-5-2012_pg3_4