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Lets Clear Confusion First


By Imtiaz Gul

Weekly Pulse, September 30, 2013


No words are enough to condemn the Sept 22 deadly twin suicide bombings at a Church in Peshawar. Neither is the case ambiguous any more; the nature of these strikes betrays a proxy war mounted on Pakistan to bleed and detsabilize it wherever possible. The campaign is targeting innocent Pakistani citizens – irrespective of faith, cast or creed - as well as the entire security apparatus. And herein lies the catch: the masterminds of such attacks on mosques, military, mandirs and churches have no religion. Neither are they driven by a real political ideology nor possess an iota of interest discussing what the All Parties Conference (APC) had expected of them i.e. peace. Death and destruction appears to be the sole agenda of these terrorists. The ambushing of Maj-Gen Sanaullah Khan Niazi and the deadly church strike amply explain the agenda. 

No surprise, therefore, that a despondent Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif almost ruled out talks when he told media at London that “ the behaviour and actions of the militants did not augur well for any kind of peace talks as the government’s efforts for a dialogue with the Taliban were now deemed not to be moving forward.” 

This portends also no surprise for those familiar with the militancy scene because they had already predicted that an inherent and almost irreconcilable conflict in the civil-military perceptions, and absence of clarity would probably soon bring the entire political process to a grinding halt. And here we are, mourning the shahadat of at least 78 precious Pakistani citizens in Peshawar. 

A major reason for scepticism that followed the APC actually lay in the fact that the majority of civilian leadership lacked clarity on possible interlocutors. Be it Imran Khan, Nawaz Sharif or the religio-political leaders, their position on “talks with Taliban” showed a clear confusion; most of them failed in first identifying the source of terrorism. Are the perpetrators of terrorist crimes really the Taliban that most political parties want to reach out to for talks? Or are they foreign proxies, entirely focused on instability through death and destruction?

During the APC, the Army Ghief Gen Kayani and ISI Chief Lt-Gen Zaheer-ul- Islam had practically ruled out dialogue with foreign elements as well as those supported by external forces.They had reportedly pointed out that the presence of a considerable number of foreign fighters - Arabs, Arab-Africans, Uzbeks (from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan), and Uyghurs (including from the Islamic Turkestan Movement) -- represented a huge threat, and that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP)’s protective umbrella for these foreign militants made it a complex issue for the security forces.

This underscored the military’s diagnosis of the "enemy", a phrase Gen Kayani in particularly has often invoked on several occasions to define the TTP's inimical approach towards the state of Pakistan. The army also knows that the Tehrik-e-Taleban led by AhmedzaiWazirs of South Waziristan, the TehrikeTaleban North Waziristan led by Hafiz GulBahadur (an UtmanzaiWazir) as well as another faction led by MaulviSadiq Noor (a DawarWazir) in the North as well as Lashkare Islam and Ansarul Islam are not opposed to the state of Pakistan.

"Increasingly complex external environment and our rather precarious internal dynamics have created a myriad of security challenges... Today, we are pitched against an amorphous enemy when the conventional threat has also grown manifold," Kayani had said while addressing the 98th Midshipmen Commissioning term and 7th SSC Officers class at Pakistan Naval Academy PNS Rahbar, last December. This amounted to an almost categorical statement on the nature of the threat that comes from the TTP.

The latest surge in violence, therefore, throws up a primary question: is the civil and military leadership diagnosing the problem correctly? Are they still looking at this complex issue as the consequence of Pakistan's unwilling involvement in America's Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan (Since 2002), and Operation Sherdil (Bajaur-Kunar, August 2008)?

While the military may be right in singling out the TTP as the biggest "amorphous enemy" of Pakistan, it also owes the nation an explanation as to whether the Haqqani Network - which along with Hafiz GulBahadur in North Waziristan serves as the social shelter for Al Qaeda and the TTP - also belongs to this category. The network's support extends also to Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, splinters of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, and by implication it is as lethal to the interests of Pakistan as the TTP. Will the government engage the Haqqanis too and ask them to entirely relocate to where they belong to?

Secondly, the alarming levels of violence require the entire leadership to ponder as to whether the present chaos - the presence of disguised radical militants and their destructive operations in Pakistan - stems just from the war in Afghanistan or is rooted in the de facto "lawless nature" of the FATA regions too?

Thirdly, has the foreign intervention and occupation in Afghanistan spurred terrorism in Pakistan, or has it to do with the social support infrastructure that is available to religious militants - unchecked growth of madrassas that serve as sanctuaries for terrorists, mosques which peddle jihadist themes and spew anti-shia venom? The role of religio-political groups, whose loyalties rest with Al Qaeda instead of the constitution of Pakistan, also need an extremely careful but critical review.

Talking to religious militants is wise, but equally important is to correctly diagnose the malaise. Until the civil-military diagnosis of the crisis converges, the country will keep bleeding, allowing terrorists to pick and choose targets and venues at will, taking down precious lives, and thereby obstructing, upsetting and derailing all peace efforts.

Imtiaz Gul is the executive director of the independent Centre for Research and Security Studies, and the author of the recently released book Pakistan: Before and After, published by Roli Books, India

Email: imtiaz@crss.pk