VIEWPOINT : PESHAWAR, WAKE-UP CALL
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.