SP's MAI - - FRONT PAGE - [ By Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd) ]

De­cem­ber 16, 2014, will per­haps go down as the black­est day in Pak­istan’s his­tory as far as ter­ror­ism goes, as the Pak­istan Tal­iban gunned down 132 chil­dren and nine staff mem­bers of Army Pub­lic School in Pe­shawar and in­jured over 200. While all seven ter­ror­ists who had en­tered the school were shot dead, the Tehreek-e-Tal­iban (TTP) claimed this at­tack was to ex­tract re­venge for their chil­dren killed by the Pak­istani army.

The fact that chil­dren were lined up and shot in the head and chest, as re­ported by the me­dia, was most heinous and hor­rific, even as Pak­istan dab­bling in ter­ror­ism is well es­tab­lished. Iron­i­cally, news em­a­nat­ing from Pak­istan had been in­di­cat­ing that eye­wit­ness ac­counts dur­ing the so-called Op­er­a­tion Zarb-e-Azb stated that the rad­i­cal lead­er­ship was fore­warned by the mil­i­tary to en­able them move to safe havens be­fore the army en­tered th­ese ar­eas; sub­se­quently, large ar­eas were sub­jected to in­dis­crim­i­nate aerial bomb­ings killing scores of civil­ians, women and chil­dren – all claimed as Tal­iban killed while towns like Miren Shah were raised to the ground, and sim­i­lar col­lat­eral dam­age is hap­pen­ing in Baluchis­tan through pe­ri­odic aerial bomb­ings, with pic­tures of dead and wounded chil­dren posted on so­cial me­dia along with ap­peals by civil­ians to the world to save them from the Pak­istani army.

In other words, it will re­main a ques­tion mark if the De­cem­ber 16 at­tack on Army Pub­lic School was not an invitation to hell by the Pak­istani army it­self. If the Pak­istani army has been suc­cess­fully dou­ble-deal­ing the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Tal­iban and Haqqani net­work to the US, West and China, in the bar­gain it has per­pe­trated enor­mous suf­fer­ings on the Pak­istani pub­lic, of which the Pe­shawar mas­sacre may only be a fore­run­ner. While in­sti­tu­tion­alised rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion was in­sti­tuted by Zia-ul-Haq, his suc­ces­sors like Pervez Mushar­raf and Ash­faq Parvez Kayani played Pak­istan’s state pol­icy of ter­ror­ism to the hilt, which is still con­tin­u­ing. The stran­gle­hold of the In­ter-Ser­vices In­tel­li­gence (ISI) over Pak­istan was aptly de­scribed through an ed­i­to­rial in Fri­day Times in March 2012 when he wrote, “The ISI has walked into GHQ and seized com­mand and con­trol of the armed forces”. That Pak­istan (read the mil­i­tary) has been sup­port­ing Al Qaeda, Tal­iban, Haqqani net­work is well ac­knowl­edged by western schol­ars as well as of­fi­cials—in­clud­ing US-NATO of­fi­cials posted in Afghanistan.

The Pak­istani pub­lic thinks that the army is wag­ing an all-out war against rad­i­cal or­gan­i­sa­tions like Tal­iban but then the ISI has been hand in glove all along. Even two years back when the army had pur­port­edly launched an of­fen­sive against the Tal­iban, me­dia had re­ported that the TTP chief’s es­cape to Afghanistan was fa­cil­i­tated by the ISI where he re­mained the guest of Afghan Tal­iban for nine months be­fore re­turn­ing back to Pak­istan, also cour­tesy ISI. Presently, both the Afghan and Pak­istan Tal­iban are in­ex­orably linked and in turn are linked to Al Qaeda, ISIS and Pak­istan’s ISI. Bulk Pak­istan Tal­iban has de­clared al­le­giance to ISIS while Ay­man al-Zawahiri, the Al Qaeda chief, has de­clared full support to Mul­lah Omar of Afghanistan Tal­iban.

Num­ber of Wa­habi-Salafi groups in Af-Pak backed by Saudi Ara­bia in­clud­ing in Nuris­tan & Ku­nar Prov­inces of Afghanistan have pledged support to the ISIS. Groups like Ahraul Is­lam (another TTP splin­ter) and ETIM also think on lines of ISIS – rule of Sharia, Is­lamic Caliphate/Emi­rate. Sig­nif­i­cantly, Pak­istani Asim Umar has been nom­i­nated Al Qaeda’s South Asia head. Sar­taj Aziz, Ad­vi­sor on For­eign Af­fairs to Pak­istani Prime Min­is­ter talk­ing to BBC re­cently said, “Pak­istan should not en­gage in a war with those [in­sur­gents/ mil­i­tants] whose tar­get is not Pak­istan.” He ob­vi­ously was talk­ing with or­gan­i­sa­tions like LeT, which to Pak­istan are ‘good’ ter­ror­ists wag­ing proxy war against In­dia.

Sure, Pak­istan has been suf­fer­ing from ter­ror­ist at­tacks but that is the price that must be paid for spawn­ing decades of ter­ror­ism. The Pe­shawar mas­sacre is a def­i­nite wake-up call for Pak­istan to shun ter­ror­ism but the mil­lion-dol­lar ques­tion is will that call be taken and by whom – a gov­ern­ment where democ­racy is a fa­cade, pub­lic who crave peace but are pow­er­less, or the mil­i­tary who hold all the cards. A change of heart by the lat­ter is un­likely, least peace pre­vail with In­dia and Afghanistan and they be asked to re­turn to the bar­racks di­vested of the de­monic power ac­quired over the decades and over­flow­ing cof­fers. The mil­i­tary has been wait­ing for the draw­down of US-NATO-ISAF from Afghanistan.

Since 2013, mil­i­tary has trained 20 Mu­jahid bat­tal­ions un­der the watchful ISI for op­er­a­tions and in con­junc­tion with Tal­iban – the ob­vi­ous ob­jec­tive be­ing the cher­ished strate­gic depth. This train­ing has not been for a mock ex­er­cise but for live sub­con­ven­tional op­er­a­tions. Some of them may al­ready be inside Afghanistan min­gled with some 25,000 Pak­istan refugees that have fled to Pak­istan this year. It is for this rea­son that speak­ing on Afghanistan in London re­cently, Asad Dur­rani, a for­mer head of Pak­istan’s ISI, was gloat­ing that US was ex­it­ing Afghanistan. Then it is also the landowner polity of Pak­istan that has been giv­ing whole­hearted support to ter­ror­ist or­gan­i­sa­tions will­ingly or maybe due to fear. Th­ese in­clude Nawaz Sharif and his brother She­hbaz Sharif, the Chief Min­is­ter of Pun­jab, who has been openly dol­ing out mil­lions to ter­ror­ists.

Un­der Prime Min­is­ter Nawaz Sharif’s Gov­ern­ment, we have al­ready wit­nessed of­fi­cial support to Hafiz Saeed’s re­cent an­tiIn­dia rally in La­hore, state se­cu­rity to In­dia’s most wanted ter­ror­ist Da­wood Ibrahim, non-clo­sure of ‘Karachi Project’ and not pun­ish­ing per­pe­tra­tors of 26/11 Mumbai ter­ror­ist at­tacks. Th­ese are just few ex­am­ples other than Pak­istani com­plic­ity in most ter­ror­ist at­tacks in In­dia. Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi had in­vited Nawaz Sharif for the oath-tak­ing of his gov­ern­ment. Post the Pe­shawar mas­sacre, Prime Min­is­ter Modi per­son­ally spoke to Nawaz Sharif ex­press­ing deep sym­pa­thies for the loss of in­no­cent lives and as­sur­ing that In­dia stands with Pak­istan in the fight against ter­ror. To say that the Pe­shawar mas­sacre is a wake-up call for Pak­istan would be an un­der­state­ment. It is up to Pak­istan how to re­spond.

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