Mayhem at Islamabad Courts at 9 AM Monday, March 3, 2014: Eleven innocent lines lost, including that of a judge and lawyers. Well over two dozen civilians injured—some fatally. This was the latest count of the victims of local Taliban terrorism in the heart of the Pakistani capital. And this would certainly not be the last one.
Yet nothing is more tragic than the fact that the government is willing to negotiate with these killers. Maulana Sandwich was all over the TV channels later that day—the bloodiest since the 2008 attack on the Marriott Hotel, which claimed hundreds of innocent lives—telling the nation how everyone in Mecca and Medina was excited about the prospects of peace with the TTP.
Maulana Sandwich had just landed at the Islamabad Airport, after visiting the holy Islamic cities on an invitation from his Saudi guests. Upon the announcement of a month-long ceasefire by the TTP, and the government’s corresponding response to hold the military operation during the time, said the Sandwich Mullah, “we all embraced each other.” The leader of the Taliban peace committee used the occasion to relay TTP grievances to the government: one about the imprisonment of Taliban’s families and children and another about the Army’s presence in rife-torn FATA.
The attack in Islamabad follows a series of suicide bombings in Peshawar and elsewhere in FATA and KPK happening during the time the so-called peace process has been gone on without any result—hence forcing the army to undertake punitive airstrikes on TTP hideouts in North Waziristan late last month.
The ceasefire announcement by TTP seems to be a mere ploy to buy time and regroup itself. This smart move aims to create a wedge between the Army that has long desired operating against the TTP in North Waziristan and the government that has been looking for pretexts for talking to TTP ever since coming to power last year.
It does not matter whether Ahrar ul Hind, the so far unknown Taliban outfit that has claimed responsibility for the Islamabad attack, has acted alone or with the direction of the TTP leadership. The key issue is that a wanton act of terrorism has indeed taken place, and innocent lives have been lost.
This time it was a so-called TTP sub-group claiming to act alone, in reaction to what it claims as TTP’s effort to negotiate with the government; the sooner or later, the TTP itself will engage in terrorism—as the past pattern of hyper terrorism in the country in which, it has been the lead culprit, suggests.
Interestingly, the civilian regime appears to be as ambivalent about fighting domestic terrorists as the security establishment was about combating regional terrorists allegedly using Pakistan as a safe haven.
Pakistan has resisted American pressure to act against the Haqqanis in North Waziristan for years, while arguing that it would be suicidal to do so while the army had not yet finished fighting the local Taliban, who, unlike the Haqqanis, specifically terrorize Pakistanis.
It so appears now that the country’s civilian government also hesitates to allow the army to launch a resolute military operation against the local Taliban while keeping primarily its possible political costs in mind. Perhaps the government does not want to lose conservative electoral support in his Punjabi powerbase in the process.
The government has already unveiled a National Security Policy to counter the wave of TTP-led terrorism that has so far spilled the blood of tens of thousands of Pakistani security personnel and civilians. The policy includes stringent measures such as keeping suspects under detention without trial for long periods.
However, to counter the immediate terrorist threat—as clear from the terrorist incident in Islamabad, preceded by hundreds of incidents of TTP terrorism in the past several years—there is no other option but to take preventive, preemptive and punitive-surgical military measures against TTP hideouts in North Waziristan and elsewhere in the FATA region.
The announcement of a month-long ceasefire is TTP’s latest trick. The government must not be trapped by it. Enough Pakistani blood has been spilled—and the government must give a go ahead to the Army for one final assault against these criminals. There should be no stopping until the last of these criminals is physically exterminated from the FATA region. Pakistanis deserve a sigh of relief after a long reign of Taliban terror.
By Dr Ishtiaq Ahmad, WEEKLY PULSE MAGAZINE, March 10, 2014