Taliban and Terrorism: Pakistan’s Twin Confessions
In a surprisingly candid statement for the first time by a prominent Pakistani leader, President Asif Zardari acknowledged the presence of large number of Taliban in the country. This confession came just a few days after the Interior Advisor, Mr. Rehman Malik accepted that the attack in Mumbai 26/11 was planned and launched from Pakistan.
President Asif Zardari stated to CBS news as per press reports in Indian newspapers on Sunday, 'We are aware of the fact it's ... Taliban... trying to take over the state of Pakistan. So, we're fighting for the survival of Pakistan. We're not fighting for the survival of anybody else.'
But Pakistan is not held ransom by the Taliban, there are a host of other elements operating in the country who have held it hostage to terror over the past many years, all under the military. Here are some facts and opinions to substantiate these statements
A report on trends in global terrorism by the West Point based Combating Terrorism Centre (CTC); an independent research institute indicated that Pakistan has suffered the sharpest rise in suicide attacks from July 2007 to June 2008. The increase in attacks was 12.9 per cent amongst all countries globally, up from 3.14 per cent in the previous 12-month period.
Monetarily it was indicated in a report in the Daily Times that over the past two years, Pakistan has suffered losses worth Pakistan Rs 1,162 billion as per the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper-II report by the Federal Finance Ministry.
The report also forecast a poor GDP growth rate of 3.4 percent during the current financial year which ends in July. The Daily Times highlights the continued threat from terrorism thus, 'Foreign and local terrorists trained in Pakistan have struck in the United States and Europe and India, and can do it again unless eliminated'. It is also felt that the root causes and ideological underpinnings can be tackled later, first violence has to be eliminated.
That the army has also lost control over the internal situation is evident with independent observers as Farhat Taj writing in News International on January 28, 2009 appealing to the Army thus, 'I would humbly request the army chief and the ISI director-general to pay heed to what the people of NWFP and FATA are saying and to act to remove their grievances. This is crucial both for both Pakhtun society as well as for the survival of the state'.
He also calls for citizens to build pressure on the government thus, 'Last, but by no means least, I would also request fellow citizens to build up pressure on the government and the military to decisively deal with the Taliban and restore the government's writ in FATA and NWFP. The armed forces are financed by taxpayers hard-earned money and we all have a right to demand that the army provide us security and protect us from extremists who want to butcher us and destroy are way of life'.
Noted columnist Ayaz Amir writing in the News International states, 'the tribal regions (agencies) bordering Afghanistan have passed out of any semblance of Pakistani control. Assorted Taliban hold sway there and our army is bogged down in a conflict which, with the present means and approach, it simply cannot win. Redefining shouldn't mean withdrawal or retreat because extremism, terrorism and the kind of Islam the Taliban are trying to impose are problems which have to be met if Pakistan is to be saved'. Amir places things in perspective when he states, ' ___what Baitullah Mahsud is carrying on in Waziristan and Maulana Fazlullah in Swat, to name but two figures, is not national resistance. It is disruption and anarchy in the name of Islam'.
FATA and other areas also witnessed a series of incidents of violence. Bomb attacks also took place in Lahore as five small explosions by 'timed devices' targeted two theatres in the capital of Punjab though causing no casualties on 9 January. The first four explosions, starting 8:45pm, took place at Al Falah Theatre on The Mall followed by one on Tamaseel Theatre on Ferozepur Road. 'These were ... locally made, low-intensity timed devices,' said Civil Lines SP (Investigations) Haider Ashraf. 'Two of them had been planted in the power plant of the theatre ... another two exploded at the main gate.'
40 Taliban fighters were killed in an attack on an army base in northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban are reported to have attacked Mohammad Ghat military camp in the Mohmand agency north of Peshawar, close to the Afghanistan border, on 11 January. The attack on the Frontier Corps garrison commenced at 2am in the night with 10 security personnel also killed. A force of 600 fighters from Afghanistan joined by locals was reportedly behind the attack including mortars and rocket fire.
Pakistani security forces finally launched military operations in Mohmand region. A successful attack on the Afghan border killed 14 rebels on 18 January. Militants attacked troops carrying out search operations when the troops retaliated. "They launched the attack from a hideout. Our troops responded quickly and destroyed it and killed 14 miscreants," Miraj Khan, a government official in the region, told Reuters.
Balochistan also remained on the boil as suspected tribal rebels blew up a gas pipeline suspending supplies as the main pipeline transporting gas from the Pirkoh field to the Sui purification plant in Dera Bugti district was targeted. The Baluch Republican Army, claimed responsibility.
Quetta was also engulfed with violence when Shia Hazara leader Hussain Ali Yousafi was shot dead by a banned Sunni organization Lashkar-e-Jhangvi on the crowded Jinnah Road at around 10am. In protest the Hazaras went on a rampage the next day damaging property. On the Pakistan Iran border there were reports that the Jundullah based in Pakistan had killed several policemen.
So Zardari's and Rehman's confessions are just a tip of the iceberg and until Pakistan changes its policy of support to terrorism, the killings will continue for as Pakistan political analyst Hasan Askari says, "Pakistan's Taliban policy has suffered from indecisiveness, inconsistency and ambiguity. Pakistan's choices will become tougher in the future because its efforts to control the Taliban do not enjoy support throughout society. A good number of ordinary people see India as more of a threat than the Taliban."
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Col. Rahul K. Bhonsle
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