Written by Sajjad Shaukat
After the continued aerial strikes by the Pakistani jets and helicopters which have bombed militants’ hideouts including bomb-making factories in some tribal and surrounding areas of North Waziristan, killing several terrorists, on March 1, this year, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has announced a month-long ceasefire with the government for resumption of peace talks. In response, while welcoming the TTP offer of truce, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan assured Maulana Samiul Haq, Taliban committee member that stalled dialogue would re-start within a few days and the government also decided to stop the ongoing surgical operations. But, on February 20, 2014, Chaudhry Nisar had clarified that Pakistan’s armed forces are undertaking strikes in FATA in ‘self-defense.’ On February 27, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s National Security Adviser Sartaj Aziz said that dialogue with the Taliban had derailed, adding that the state’s writ would be established in the troubled regions.
In fact, while the committee of the Pakistan Government was conducting peace talks with that of the TTP, a deadlock occurred when Taliban claimed responsibility for the brutal massacre of the 23 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary in Afghanistan, who were abducted from Mohmand Agency, four years ago. This heinous act which was strongly condemned by the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, leaders of various political and religious parties including Jamat-e-Islami Chief Munawar Hassan and Chairman of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, Imran Khan who are sympathizers of these Taliban, came as a blow from the sky, giving a greater setback to the peace process.
Earlier, Taliban militants targeted the Rangers, Police bus and anti-polio workers in Karachi in wake of the peace talks for which TTP accepted responsibility. Particularly, the tragic incident of terrorist attack on the Police bus in Karachi, killing 13 and injuring 57 commandos have been condemned by all segment of society.
In the recent past, on the one hand, TTP spokesman has condemned the terror-events which took place in Karachi and Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa including assaults on the personnel of the security forces and law-enforcing agencies, on the other; he has claimed responsibility, while stating that the outfit will continue terror-assaults. Similarly, TTP had condemned the terror-attack on the church in Peshawar. But, afterwards, its spokesman had remarked that it was in accordance with Sharia (Islamic Jurisprudence) which indicated that the militant group was behind that ruthless assault. So, contradictory statements of the TTP-led Taliban have endorsed that the militant group sabotaged the peace dialogue by playing double game.
Meanwhile, the militant attack on a polio team in Jamrud on March 1, which left 11 dead—as part of their dual approach, TTP did not claim responsibility. In response, gunship helicopters struck the headquarters of Mullah Tamanche involved in the attack on polio workers, killing five culprits.
However, double face of the TTP could also be judged from some recent statements of its spokesman. Sometimes, he agreed with government, saying that the TTP wanted to advance peace process in accordance with constitution of Pakistan, and sometimes, he rejected the constitution as un-Islamic. Notably, the constitution which was signed by the leaders of all the political and religious parties, declares the country, The Islamic Republic of Pakistan—also mentions that the government will made efforts to implement Islamic system in the country.
Similarly, earlier the TTP rejected government’s condition for unilateral ceasefire; a day after the Federal Cabinet urged its militants to renounce terror activities without pre-conditions. As regards surgical operations, its spokesman had warned, “the government will have to bear more loss than us.” But, it is due to the pressure, built by the successful air strikes that the outfit has announced ceasefire for a month with the government, inviting the latter to revive the peace talks. Despite it, fact remains that the TTP-led insurgents also want to deceive the government through its shrewd techniques, as they seek stoppage of selective military actions in order to strengthen their position for future terror-attacks. They also intend to create a rift between the civil-military relations. In this respect, on February 26, Pakistan’s Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif along with DG ISI Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and other top officials. The military leadership informed the meeting about hideouts of terrorists in North Waziristan, assuring that these could be eliminated in two weeks, as the recent strikes have inflicted heavy damage to the militants. They also ensured that armed forces would eliminate terrorism from the soil of the country.
Besides, the TTP also wants to create fissures between the political and religious parties to fulfill the nefarious designs of their external masters. In this context, Chief of Jamiat Ulema-I-Islam (F), Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Munawar Hassan have welcomed the Taliban’s declaration of ceasefire. And Imran Khan who has recently favoured military operation against the Taliban also supported TTP’s truce offer, while emphasizing the government to avail this opportunity.
It is of particular attention that Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar has asserted that peace talks and violent acts of terrorism cannot go side by side. While unveiling the prime minister’s national security policy in the National Assembly on February 26, he said that the attacks from militants would be met with an appropriate military response. But, at the same time, he pointed out that doors of dialogue with the TTP were still opened. On March 1, Nisar stated that no military operation was going on in the tribal regions, and only targeted action was being carried out, as the government had not decided such an operation.
The Leader of the Opposition, Syed Khurshid Shah and those of other political parties have remarked that they support the government over the issue of tackling terrorism, but asked the rulers to announce a clear-cut policy over the matter.
Now, some political and religious entities have been pointing to some external elements which are thwarting the peace process between the TTP and the government. In this connection, without naming US, some are hinting towards the “third power”, and some are saying that Indian secret agency RAW is castigating these peace talks.
While, the TTP new Chief Maulana Fazlullah had dismissed the proposed peace negotiations with the government as a “waste of time”, and vowed to target the prime minister, chief minister, chief of army staff and corpse commanders. During Swat and Malakand military operations, Fazlullah fled Swat and took shelter in Afghanistan. Well-established in Afghanistan, with the tactical support of the US, in connivance with Indian RAW and Afghan spy service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistani Taliban, Maulana Fazlullah—and these foreign agencies have been conducting target killings, bomb blasts, suicide attacks, beheadings, assaults on civil and military personnel, installations and forced abductions including ethnic and sectarian violence. By sending heavily-equipped militants in Pakistan, these entities are also assisting Baloch separatists.
Unfortunately, terrorists led by the TTP use Islam as their most effective mask. Their main demands include enforcement of Islamic system of governance by imposing Shariah laws in the country, ending diplomatic relations with US and western world and undertaking Jihad against the non-Muslims. They have become self-proclaimed campaigners of Islam, rejecting all dissenting views. While, the victims of terror-attacks in Pakistan have been innocent men, women, and children including security personnel and prominent religious figures—blowing children schools, the militants also targeted cinemas and the places of worships.
No doubt, Jihad is a sacred obligation, but its real spirit needs to be understood clearly, as murdering innocent women and children is not Jihad. In fact, by implementing the agenda of some foreign powers, these Taliban and their banned affiliated groups are defaming Islam, concept of Jihad, and are weakening Pakistan. As terrorists have accelerated their anti-social, undemocratic and un-Islamic practices, therefore, people from all the segment of life and majority of politicians want that a handful of terrorist elements must not be allowed to impose their self-perceived ideology on the majority of Pakistanis, while supporting military action against these culprits. Political leaders must not advance their political agenda on valuable assessments given by top military leadership on the possibility of success of military operation against TTP in Karachi as well. Out of context references not only ridicule the Armed Forces, but also help glorifying the Taliban. 40% success of Army operation stated by ex-chief of army staff, Iman Khan and the prime minister who wrongly referred the statement of DG ISI pointed at creating an impact of the operation in achieving overall objective of resolving the problem for restoring peace. Hence, leaders must exercise prudence in issuing ill-conceived statements to gain political prominence. They must not evade responsibility on terrorism by putting the entire blame on the third force. They have to accept responsibility to take the country out of terrorism. Postings in Sindh Police during Karachi operation must also not be done before the prior consent of DG Rangers Sindh.
Nonetheless, instead of wavering between fact and scepticism by following the policy of appeasement towards all the militant groups, especially the TTP, our rulers need to be aware of their real intentions which display their double face. The government must devise a comprehensive strategy to deal with the terrorists with iron hands, while declaring a full-fledged military operation against them, as any delay will further embolden these militants who will further intensify their subversive activities.