Islamic Radicalism: Pakistan Entrapped in A Vicious Circle of Militancy and Cowardice of the State
By Mujahid Husain
Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants have once again started attacking Pakistan, this time in a much organised manner. It was being said, after the successful military operations in tribal areas that Taliban and Al-Qaeda sympathizers have been chased away. But the reality is totally opposite to it. Indeed it is the Local and foreign militants who have driven away security forces and other peace-promoting organisations from there.
Militants are now focussing their attention on the suburbs of big towns and hamlets. They are easily making them their prey. Their successful operation of getting hundreds of dreaded inmates flee from Bannu jail, situated in the tribal area, is the latest example of their prowess. Adnan Rashid one of the most wanted and a dreaded attacker on the life of former Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was one of them. He was greeted with garlands in the jail campus by the attackers of the Bannu Jail. Garlands were specially brought for him by the miscreants. This incident proves militants’ planning, strength and their self confidence.
Taliban attackers kept celebrating their victory for two hours in the jail campus itself. In the meantime the police station and security forces of Bannu town kept themselves silently locked in their offices. They dare not try to interfere in the operation of the militant attackers.
After the jail break incident a private school of Peshawar came under their wrath. The school was attacked with hand grenades in which children were killed.
State government finds itself helpless in front of the terror organisation called ‘Lashkar-e-Islam’ which is active in the suburbs of Peshawar.
On the other hand it is not possible now to restrict the growing power of Taliban in Waziristan. Taliban has taken full advantage of the growing tension between Pakistan and U S over the NATO supply line. It is not out of possibilities that Pakistan security forces, the state machinery and other institutions will have to face more intense attacks. Terrorists have become more organised with public support and have increased their effectiveness much more than before. Intellectuals and media are busy singing their praise. Imams in the Friday prayers ‘Khutba in mosques call them the ‘architects of Islam’”.
Al-Qaeda has brought its strategy of sectarian killings of Afghanistan into practice in Baluchistan and other northern parts of Pakistan in addition to the coastal town of Karachi which is already notorious for such massacres. Hazara tribes are being mercilessly butchered in Baluchistan and other northern parts of the country. It may be mentioned here that Al-Qaeda has taken the services of sectarian groups like ‘Kaladam Sipah-e-Sahaba and Kaladam Lashkar-e-Jhangwi who take the killing of Shias as a service to religion and a work that brings great blessing. Local Taliban group and other militant groups have increased their intensity of attacks on the security forces and other state institutions after the Lal Masjid incident. There have been various attacks on Army Headquarters and the ISI offices of Rawalpindi, Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Faisalabad. Military high rank officers, police training centres and FIA offices have been targeted through suicide bombers.
Difa-e-Pakistan (Defence of Pakistan) under the patronage of Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Maulana Sami-ul-Haque, Munawwar Hasan and Hamid Gul and Difa-e-Islam under Maulana Fazal ur Rahman have proved to be a salvation for Al Qaeda and other numerous militant and terror outfits in Khyber Pakhtunwa and other tribal areas of the state. Although they have exhibited their prowess in the guise of stopping possible NATO supply line but the actual powers behind them are not hidden to anyone.
United States has reiterated in the harshest possible manner a bounty on the arrest of the Chief of Lashkar-e-Tayyeba Hafiz Mohammad Saeed and his close relative Abdur Rahman Makki, although on India’s insistence. But it is obvious that Pakistan government and other powerful institutions are not prepared to hear anything against Hafiz Saeed. He has not even been advised to be vigilant and less active as had been the case during Pervez Musharraf’s rule. This is why Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has not gone underground and is engaged in all his activities as before.
Hafiz Mohammad Saeed was kept under house arrest in a Rest House of Shaikhupura in 2008 when Lashkar-e-Tayyeba was named in Mumbai attack, under the pressure of India and other international communities. The then President of the country Pervez Musharraf himself went there in the darkness of night and asked him to be vigilant and careful. Resultantly Hafiz Saeed did not have to face any music and the local courts of Pakistan acquitted him from all the allegations.
Today all the terror and militant organisations have joined hands. Controlling them has now gone out of country’s capability.
Hakeemullah Mahmood of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is more powerful than the Governor of Peshawar, sitting as a government representative in Khyber Pakhtunwa, and the Army commanders of Peshawar Cant. Chief Minister of Khyber Pakhtunwa and many other ministers are in hiding with heavy security for fear of Hakeemullah Mahmood and his followers. There are many reports that many highly placed executive officers of the state government pay heavy extortion amounts every month to the Taliban for their safety. The state government is on the mercy of Hakeemullah Mahmood. His followers have demonstrated this on various occasions. The incident of ‘Jail break’, some days ago in Bannu town by Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan was conducted with an ease that was difficult to believe. After the ‘jail break’ incidents state government could not do anything more than suspending some scared jail workers.
The Home Minister is totally mum on this incident. He knows militant organisations in the country have grown in stature and that they all have followers in hundreds of thousands who are ever ready to arrange monetary as well as moral support to them. Another sign of danger for the state is that various factions of Tehreek-e-Taliban are joining hands together. Aman Lashkars which were formed to compete with them have got weakened and have vanished from the scene. The situation has gone so bad that every day the leaders of Aman Lashkar are being slaughtered like animals while fleeing Mangal Bagh of Khyber Tehsil. Dead bodies of these leaders are found every other day in Peshawar and its surroundings. It may be mentioned here that this is the same militant Mangal Bagh which used to extort heavy amounts from the state government officials and the same Mangal Bagh militant group has become a headache for the state again.
It is difficult not to mention a group aligned with Tahreek-e-Taliban and Al-Qaeda which is getting successful in killing Shias in Baluchistan, Sindh and specially Karachi, Khurram Agency and northern region. This organisation has many members of Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Jhangwi and Jaish-e-Mohammad who have the support and help of many powerful institutions of Punjab government. In Baluchistan this group is assisted by Jundallah which provides all kinds of facilities and in northern regions it is supported by Punjabi Taliban and Tehreek-e-Taliban for sectarian killings. Main aim of this group is to bring Shias under their attack from Manasara to Gilgit and Askardu. This group laced with guerrilla warfare easily makes Shias its prey especially to the groups of pilgrims. It disappears in the mountain treks after every massacre and killings. This group targets the pilgrims of Iraq, Syria and Iran travelling by buses. These pilgrim caravans have to go to Quetta by road via Zahedan and Tifton and this is where they fall prey to the bullets of the militants. Now these attacks have become difficult since central and state governments have made them travel under collective security of security forces. But now these sectarian killers are targeting Shias after the security limits end at Quetta, between Mansehra, Gilgit and Skardu.
Another very important thing which Pakistani media could not bring to light out of fear for their own lives is that these killers attack small Shia populated villages, kill their men and kidnap women and children. It may be mentioned here that Tehreek-e-Taliban and such other sectarian groups have issued various fatwas during the last ten years that making Shia women and children their slaves and maids after killing their men folk, is not only a rightful but virtuous deed.
Although these sectarian forces are being guided and supported from Punjab and their central leadership is present there, they have not perpetrated any massacre on the scale they have in northern Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunwa, northern areas and Karachi. Obvious reason is that their supporters in Punjab have been successful in making them agree to forgive and forget Punjab. But this can come to an end any moment as Punjab could prove itself to be an easy target because of its large Shia population and its geographical situation. This has been witnessed in the past when there have been hundreds of target killings right from their prayer houses to every kind of congregations. If my sources are to be believed, all the orders are released from their headquarters in Punjab and most of the times these killers are provided shelters in the madarsas of south Punjab where there is no possibility of any kind of search operation. Last year in December, when the Centre ordered Punjab government to search for sectarian killers groups and members of Tehreek-e-Taliban in Dera Ghazi Khan, Multan, Bahawalpur, Leh, Raheem Yaar Khan and Muzaffargarh, law Minister of Punjab instead of the Chief Minister said that no operation will be allowed in the madrasas there.
There is no doubt that Pakistan is entrapped in a vicious circle by the militant and extremists groups. These groups enjoy support of state machinery and social organisations. World events also do affect religious forces in Pakistan. Powerful state machineries and international organisations like Al-Qaeda also use these local terror organisations for their benefit. For example it is decided that armed terror groups are in fact faithful to Islam and Pakistan against anti-national enemies.
Although these forces are ruling the roost for the last three decades they also know that they need to be more powerful to carry out their agendas after 2014 when American and NATO forces leave Afghanistan. They are aware that it will be easy for them to gain power in Pakistan if somehow they get united. Pakistani media is ready to greet the militant warriors in Islamabad as it is continuously paying respect and showing reverence on TV to such terror groups.
Neither does civil society of Pakistan look keen nor does it have the capability to stop religious militants taking power in Pakistan as all the liberal and secular individuals have already been brought to book or killed. To gauge the situation it is enough to mention that SAFMA offices in Lahore and Islamabad have faced serious threats. Pamphlets with the photographs of the journalists attached with SAFMA are being printed. These pamphlets describe them as enemies of Pakistan and Islam.
In short a powerful wave of militancy and terror can be seen everywhere in Pakistan which will not only destroy the structure of THE ‘state’, whatever little is left of it, but it will pave the way for sectarian violence on the basis of religion and sect. Its possibilities are getting obvious and palpable.
The author of nine books including the recent “Punjabi Taliban”, Mujahid Hussain will now be writing a regular column for New Age Islam. He has been contributing to leading papers as an investigative journalist for about two decades. His writings cover a vast panorama of topics concerning political and societal existence of Pakistan, a nation passing through difficult straits since a short time after its birth. With terrorism and security issues at local, regional, and global levels as his special area of study in recent years, Mujahid Hussain has earned a sizable readership in serious circles in Pakistan and abroad. Follower of an independent, non-partisan, and objective way of thinking, the author offers honest analysis of the challenges threatening communities, nations, and humanity at large.