Need of Timely Action against Terrorism
By Sajjad Shaukat
In order to resolve the menace of terrorism, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on January 29, this year announced the constitution of 4-member committee comprising impartial personalities to open negotiations with the warring Taliban. The committee has started contacts with all the militant groups, especially Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which has also welcomed government’s offer of peace dialogue. But at the same time, while referring to the recent terrorist attacks in Bannu, Peshawar, Hangu, assaults on anti-polio workers, media, minorities and religious scholars, prime minister also stated, “All state institutions will stand behind the government, if it decides to use force against terrorists.” He also clarified that talks and terrorism cannot go together, and asked the militants to observe a ceasefire.
Quite contrarily, TTP-led militants continued their subversive activities, particularly in Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa and Karachi, while in Balochistan, the Taliban have connections with other insurgents’ outfits like Balachistan Liberation Army (BLA) and Jundollah (God’s soldiers), which are also involved in similar acts of terrorism.
In fact, since the present government came into power, it has been wavering between fact and scepticism by following the policy of appeasement towards all the militant groups, especially TTP which has not ended its terror-activities such as suicide attacks, bomb blasts, targeted killings, ruthless beheadings of the innocent people, assaults on security personnel and prominent religious figures.
Unfortunately, Pakistan is faced with extremely wicked, enigmatically elusive and subjectively imprecise threat posed by terrorism or TPP. The irony of the fate is that terrorists wear homogeneously accepted garbs as servants of Islam and use religion as their most effective mask and credible smokescreen. Their main pledges included demands for enforcement of Islamic system of governance by imposing Shariah laws (Islamic jurisprudence) in the country, ending diplomatic relations with US and western world and undertaking Jihad against the non-Muslims. They became self-proclaimed campaigners of Islam, rejecting all dissenting views on explicit explanations of Shariah.
Rigidly, locked in insular mind-set, the terrorists, particularly of the TTP oppose the constitution of Pakistan, reject the system of governance and fight the Armed Forces by leaving no stone unturned in promoting their politically motivated agenda to gratify their power motives. Whereas they cause loss of lives, damage property and subject the entire nation with psychological pain and grief, while showing no compassion by openly rejoicing their criminal strikes.
Now, these militants are expanding their violent activities by targeting all unguarded, reticent and mute segments of society. The aim is to blow out their boasting audacity and show off their strength of defiance. Suicide bombings on the personnel of the security forces and law-enforcing agencies present one pattern, while targeting schools, shrines, mosques and places of worship, religious processions, funerals and markets specially meant for women and children clearly explain their un-Islamic patterns of behaviour.
Condemning the latest acts of terrorism, particularly in Rawalpindi by the TTP, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan stated that attacks on innocent persons and armed forces would not be tolerated. On the one side, they have repeatedly been emphasizing upon peace talks with the Taliban, especially with the TTP, while on the other, taking note of their terror-attacks, they have also suggested strong action against these militants.
In this context, although the rulers have expedited the formulation and promulgation of anti-terror laws as part of counter-terrorism strategy, yet they are considering two options-dialogue or military operation.
It is mentionable that TTP is acting upon shrewd tactics, as sometimes it claims responsibility for its terror-assaults and sometimes denies the same. For example, when its militants had attacked the church in Peshawar in September, 2013, TTP did not accept responsibility, but afterwards, by misinterpreting Islam, its spokesman said that it was in accordance with Shariah. Similarly, TTP condemned bomb blast in the Tableeghi Markaz (preaching center) in Peshawar, which killed nine people on January 16, 2014, but, it claimed responsibility of attacks on police in Malakand, Shangla and Mansehra including military convoy in Bannu and R.A Bazaar near GHQ.
Notably, 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.
However, tough terms of the TTP for reconciliation show double game. In the recent past, in a letter, Pakistani Taliban demanded that Pakistan should pull out of the Afghan war, abandon its pro-American and pro-western policies and change its constitution and foreign policy in conformity with Islamic Shariah.
But, Federal Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar had pointed out that the Taliban’s offer of conditional truce was unacceptable, adding, “Taliban groups cannot dictate the state.” While indicating unclear policy, the government is indirectly pacifying the TTP and other Taliban insurgents who have been encouraged, and keep on challenging the writ of the state.
While, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif initiated peace process with the Taliban in accordance with the decision of the All Parties Conference (APC) in which leaders of the mainstream political parties had participated. Contrarily, now, situation has entirely changed. Recently, while condemning the inhuman activities of the insurgents, particularly by those of the TTP, more than 100 Islamic scholars clarified in their joint fatwa (edict) and separate statements that “killing of innocent people, target killings and suicide bombings including sectarianism are against the spirit of Islam…the terrorists’ self-adopted interpretation of Islam was nothing but ignorance and digression from the actual teachings of the religion.”
In fact, Islam is a religion of universal application, as it emphasizes peace, democracy, moderation and human rights including tolerance of political groups, religious communities and sects which are in minority in a country. In this connection, the Constitution of 1973 which was unanimously adopted, clearly states that Pakistan is basically a democracy guided by the Islamic principles and values—no law would be made contrary to Quran and Sunnah.
Undoubtedly, Jihad is a sacred obligation, but its real spirit needs to be understood clearly, as murdering innocent women and children is not Jihad. 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, hence, people from all segment of life and majority of politicians want that a handful of terrorist elements must not be allowed to dictate their agenda and to impose their self-perceived ideology on the majority of Pakistanis.
While the present government issued three ordinances which are before the parliament—yet to take a concrete form of law. Nonetheless, it is due to delay in formulation and implementation of counter-terrorism policy that the Taliban who continue their brutal acts have been encouraged by the contradictory approach of the present government.
Terrorism as a phenomenon needs to be fought collectively and the entire nation has to put up a collective effort. In this regard, a meaningful message must immediately be sent to the terrorists that the government has the will and power to eliminate them.
Government has to take lead to fight the threat posed by terrorists, especially those of the TTP. Bloodshed must not be allowed to spread at the will of the militants. There is a dire need to develop political will to fight the insurgents through well-devised strategy and firm resolve. The writ of the Govt must be established at all costs and all and sundry be brought to the folds of law.
In this regard, political leadership must take tough, but rationale decisions without any further delay. It must also be realized that time is running out, while terrorists are getting stronger with every passing day.
For the purpose, Pakistan’s political leaders and media anchors must condemn terrorists’ attacks on the innocent persons, personnel of the security forces and other law-enforcing agencies with disdain and social contempt. They must pay homage to those who lost their lives while fighting the terrorists. For example, this includes Police officers like Chaudhary Aslam (Martyred) and young student Aitzaz Hussan (Martyred), as the entire nation is proud of such brave sons of soil. Besides, terror attacks at Peshawar Tableeghi Markaz must be thoroughly investigated and the culprits must be brought to book.
Particularly, religious clerics must come forward to denounce such subversive acts, and participate actively in countering the menace of terrorism. Different factions must hold collective conferences on faith related issues and society be organized to fight these criminal elements.
Despite all the efforts, there is a dire need to devise a comprehensive strategy to deal with the terrorists with iron hands. Therefore, instead of pursuing contradictory policy, the government needs to act upon a timely action against terrorism, as any delay in this respect will further embolden these militants who will intensify their terror attacks.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations. Email: email@example.com