Tuesday October 17, 2017
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Reaping a bloody harvest: The cost of terrorism for Pakistan

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PAKISTAN-UNREST-BLASTS

By Ishan Kukreti

Violence is a two-edged sword that Pakistan had been carelessly waving for a bit too long. On hindsight, that sword has left the nation with much to mourn about than to cheer.

To go strictly by statistics, 35,000 Pakistanis lost their lives between 2001 to 2011, due to terror-related atrocities. In financial terms, according to the Pakistani government, terrorism has cost the nation roughly 68 billion dollars in the first decade of the 21st century. For more than a decade, hardly a single month has gone by peacefully without registering terror related deaths in the country.

Former Presidents, Asif Ali Zardari and Parvez Musharraf, have confessed Pakistan’s role in promoting terrorism. Groups like Al-Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Omar, Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Sipah-e-Sahaba to name a few have long been operating out of territories owned or occupied by Pakistan.

Though it has joined US’s war on terrorism, its tendency to differentiate between beneficial (Good Taliban) and not so beneficial terrorism (Bad Taliban) has prevented Pakistan from taking the problem head on. In turn, the measures taken by the nation against the “Bad Taliban” have unleashed reactions that Pakistan finds difficult to bear.

Bracketing Pakistani terrorism

The cat of Taliban’s origin has been long out of the bag. US’s involvement has been as major as Hydrogen’s in Sulfuric acid formation. However, a fact often overlooked in the shining star cast of Taliban’s inception is that the movement was fed manpower and guidance by Pakistan. Mujahedeen from Pakistan were the ones who gave and took lives in the war against Communism in Afghanistan.

Image courtesy Reuters.
Image courtesy Reuters.

Dilshod Achilov, a professor of political science at East Tennessee State University, while in an interview with International Business Times clarified the position of Pakistan.

“We should not forget the historical roots of the present day Taliban/Al-Qaeda dilemma. Let’s recall the historical facts that shed light into the present. We know that both the CIA and Pakistan’s ISI helped to create the Taliban militia forces to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan during the [latter stages of the] Cold War. When the Soviets retreated from Afghanistan, the army of 100,000-plus well-armed and well trained Taliban mujahedeen still remained.”

Everyone loves an extra hand

The striking coincidence in the ending of Cold War and the beginning of militancy in Kashmir doesn’t require a Machiavelli to understand the relation. In a fight over a disputed piece of land, this well trained and armed army provided a reliable extra hand for Pakistan.

At the same time, this helping hand provided a good influence over Afghanistan.

Pakistan’s relations with Taliban while it ruled Afghanistan are contested. However, Pakistan second fiddling the uncle in this whole process is undoubtedly clear. Afghanistan’s strategic placement in relation to the oil-rich Middle East made it lucrative to the US while Pakistan played a willing side kick to the uncle in his adventures in the region.

(Video courtesy Al Jazeera English)

What goes around…

Taliban’s castle in Afghanistan came down with the World Trade Center in 2001 followed by US’s war on terrorism. Pakistan’s trouble began after the Waziristan War while the formation of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in 2007 turned the tables completely on the nation. Major terrorist attacks in Pakistan increased from 16 in 2006 to 50 in 2007, the year TTP became active. Last year’s attack on an army school, leaving more than 100 kids dead, too was carried out by TTP.

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Pakistan’s sincerity in fighting terrorism has always been and still is in question. The US State department recently made a statement, “The military operations had a significant impact on TTP safe havens, but some terrorist organizations in the region continued to operate, primarily along the border with Afghanistan.”

On one hand the decrease in the frequency of terror attacks in Kashmir is reason enough to believe that Pakistan has a lot on its plate right now. On the other, the fact that Pakistan has not taken a serious action against terrorists like Hafiz Muhammad Saeed says a lot about the present calm in the situation. It is caused by reasons other than good intentions and is temporary.

Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (Image courtesy CNN)
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed (Image courtesy CNN)

Postscript

No conflict continues due to purely economic or petty reasons, although they are a major factor. Deeper, under the palpable layers of logical connections lies a belief, a faith.

Faith drove the Conquistadors to slaughter an entire race. It was the adherence to an ideology that razed Europe to the ground in the last century. And it is faith that continues the Indo-Pak conflict. A belief that religion decides a person’s nationality and makes murder excusable.

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Pakistan Electoral Body Bars Political Party Due to Terror Ties

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Sheikh Yaqub
Sheikh Yaqub (C) candidate of the newly-formed Milli Muslim League party, waves to his supporters at an election rally in Lahore, Pakistan. voa

Pakistan’s Election Commission (ECP) on Wednesday rejected the registration application of a newly established political party with alleged ties to a banned militant group in the country.

Milli Muslim League (MML) has been disqualified to participate in the country’s state and general elections.

The electoral commission’s decision is said to be based on a request made earlier by the country’s Ministry of Interior Affairs, stating that Milli Muslim League is a front organization for Jamaat-ud-Dawa, a U.S.-designated terror sponsoring organization in Pakistan.

“The government is vigilant and under no circumstances will allow any political party with a proven record of promoting violence and terrorism to spread their extremist ideology through democracy and political means,” Tallal Chaudhry, Pakistan’s minister of state for Interior Affairs, told VOA.

Saif Ullah Khalid, president of Milli Muslim League, dismissed the election commission’s decision and said the party will take the matter to the country’s judiciary.

Political wing

Milli Muslim League was established in August 2017 as a political wing for the controversial Jamaat-ud-Dawa (JuD), which is believed to be a front organization for the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terror group led by Hafiz Saeed.

Saeed was accused of masterminding Mumbai’s 2008 terror attacks that killed 166 people, including six Americans.

The U.S. government has offered a $10 million reward for information leading to his arrest. Saeed has been reportedly under house arrest in the eastern city of Lahore for the past eight months.

In September, during an important by-election in Lahore, when the National Assembly’s seat fell vacant following the disqualification of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the newly launched MML backed an independent candidate who finished fourth in the race for Sharif’s seat.

At the time, Pakistan’s upper house of parliament strongly criticized the country’s election commission for allowing JuD’s political wing, MML, to participate in the Lahore by-election.

Some experts were concerned about the emergence of militant groups joining mainstream politics in Pakistan. They maintain that the political trend seen in Lahore’s by-election, where parties linked to militant groups are able to mobilize and generate sufficient numbers of votes within a very short period of time, as alarming.

“There should be a debate on this sensitive issue through social, political and media channels. By allowing militant-based political parties to integrate into mainstream politics, it will only escalate radicalization in the society,” Khadim Hussain, a Peshawar based political analyst, told VOA.

“There are people who believe with the merger of such militant groups into politics, we’ll provide them an avenue to maintain a political presence without leaving their extreme ideologies,” Hussain added.

Army’s support

Earlier last week, Pakistan’s army acknowledged they are mulling over plans to blend the militant-linked political groups into the mainstream political arena.

Some analysts side with MML, arguing the party should be allowed to participate in elections.

“I do not understand in what capacity the election commission has rejected MML’s application to register as a party,” said Ahmad Bilal Mehboob, the head of Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT).

“Did they (MML) break any law? If not, how can you bar MML from entering the mainstream politics when they’re doing it through legitimate ways,” Mehboob emphasized.

Zubair Iqbal, a Washington-based South Asia expert, also raised concerns over the validity of the decision.

“This is how democracy works. … There are some extreme groups, some moderate groups and no one should be stopped because of their extreme ideologies,” Iqbal told VOA. “The extremist groups can be barred from entering into the politics only through people and democracy.”

“Unless these parties and individuals are allowed to participate in the political system they might never change their extreme ideologies and might continue operating underground which will prove to be more dangerous,” Iqbal added.

International pressure

In the past few years, Pakistan has faced escalating pressure from the international community for not being able to crackdown on militant groups enjoying safe havens in Pakistan and launching attacks in neighboring countries.

In his recent speech on the region, U.S President Trump put Pakistan on notice to take actions against safe havens in Pakistan. Pakistani officials deny the existence of safe havens on its soil.

Pakistan is also accused of being selective in its pursuit of terror groups. It allegedly goes after only those groups that pose a threat to the country’s national security, ignoring others that threat India and Afghanistan.

Pakistan rejects the allegations and reiterates its stance of having no sympathy for any terror group operating in the country.(VOA)

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Indo-Pak Peace Talks Futile Unless Islamabad Sheds Links with Terrorism, says Study

A Study by a U.S. think tank calls India and Pakistan talks futile, until Pakistan changes its approach.

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India and Pakistan
India and Pakistan. Wikimedia.

A Top United States of America (U.S.) think tank, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace called the relations between India and Pakistan futile, unless Islamabad changes its approach and sheds its links with Jihadi terrorism.

A report “Are India and Pakistan Peace Talks Worth a Damn”, authored by Ashley J Tellis stated that such a move supported by foreign countries would be counterproductive and misguided.

The report suggests that International community’s call for the India and Pakistan talks don’t recognize that the tension between the two countries is not actually due to the sharp differences between them, but due to the long rooted ideological, territorial and power-political hatred. The report states that these antagonisms are fueled by Pakistani army’s desire to subvert India’s powerful global position.

Tellis writes that Pakistan’s hatred is driven by its aim to be considered and treated equal to India, despite the vast differences in their achievements and capabilities.

Also ReadMilitant Groups in Pakistan Emerge as Political Parties : Can Violent Extremism and Politics Co-exist? 

New Delhi, however, has kept their stance clear and mentioned that India and Pakistan talks cannot be conducted, until, the latter stops supporting terrorism, and the people conducting destructive activities in India.

The report further suggests that Pakistan sees India as a genuine threat and continuously uses Jihadi terrorism as a source to weaken India. The report extends its support to India’s position and asks other international powers, including the U.S., to extend their support to New Delhi.

Earlier in September, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) slammed Pakistan for its continuous terror activities. She attacked the country by saying that India has produced engineers, doctors, and scholars; Pakistan has produced terrorists.

Sushma Swaraj further said that when India is being recognised in the world for its IT and achievements in the space, Pakistan is producing Terrorist Organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba. She said that Pakistan is the world’s greatest exporter of havoc, death and inhumanity.

-by Megha Acharya  of NewsGram. Megha can be reached at @ImMeghaacharya. 

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Islamic State Flag saying “The Caliphate is coming”, Sighted in Pakistan

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ISIS flag
Pakistani officials acknowledged that at least one IS flag was recently displayed on a billboard in Islamabad.(source: VOA)

Islamabad September 25: An Islamic State (IS), the flag was seen displayed near Islamabad which read “The Caliphate is coming,” slogan written on the flag, and was put up over a billboard Sunday on a major expressway in Islamabad.

Pakistan Interior Ministry authorities told that committee has been formed to investigate the incident. Pakistan authorities deny that IS may have established a foothold in the country.

Islamic State (ISIS) Militant Group to Soon have a Strong Hold in Southeast Asia: Report

“The group does not have an organized presence, resources or structure to be able to operate in the area,” Talal Choudhry, State Minister for Interior Affairs told VOA’s Urdu Service.

The IS terror group has taken roots in the mountain regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan since early 2015. It brands itself as the Islamic State of Khorasan (IS-K), a title that distinguishes the militant group in the region from its main branch in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State threat in Pakistan follows recent media reports and activities by local IS affiliates in various regions that indicate the group has been making inroads in the country.(VOA)