Another funeral, another attack

A suicide bomber blew himself up at a funeral in Lower Dir on Thursday, leading to the death of 40 people and wounding more than 60 others. One funeral, one suicide bomber – the result: another 40 funerals. Welcome to the world of the Taliban. They have no respect for innocent lives. They would stoop so low as to kill children just to settle a score with their ‘enemies’. Just this week the Taliban claimed responsibility for attacking a school van; four children were brutally murdered in that attack. The Taliban do not have hearts; to call them human beings would be a crime. Yet we see that our military establishment continues to differentiate between the Afghan Taliban and the local Taliban, dubbing the former ‘good’ and the latter ‘bad’ Taliban. Our Guderians consider the Afghan Taliban to be Pakistan’s ‘strategic assets’. These same strategic assets have killed thousands of innocent people across the border in Afghanistan. They have also given refuge to the local Taliban, both in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Butchers will always be butchers despite the tags attached to them. The Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have found like-minded ‘friends’ within the circle of the Afghan Taliban, most notably amongst the Haqqani network. They have carried out attacks from across the border, killing soldiers, civilians and anything and everything that comes in their way. The Dir attack was in retaliation against another pro-government lashkar (private militia) just like the children in that school van were targeted for their elders belonging to an anti-Taliban lashkar.

The TTP is out of control, but so are our skewed security policies. Pakistan’s military and government realised that it is nearly impossible to have sufficient troops in the tribal areas to combat the activities of the TTP. Private lashkars were raised to counter them out of necessity. Unfortunately, both the military and the government have not provided the lashkars with weapons, ammunition and protection. The forces these tribes are up against are battle-hardened, well trained and have superior firepower. It is the responsibility of our authorities to provide the tribal lashkars with the wherewithal to take on the Taliban. The real purpose behind the recent deadly attacks by the Taliban is to intimidate and terrorise the pro-government tribes. These lashkars would be rendered ineffectual if they do not get the full support of the military and government. While it is significant that al Qaeda’s chief of operations in Pakistan, Abu Hafs al-Shahri, was killed recently, it is equally important that the war against terrorism must continue and for that we need to think things through.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta’s warning to Pakistan should not be taken lightly. The US has decided to take action against the Haqqani network if we fail to do so. Pakistan’s Foreign Office may have reacted to Mr Panetta’s vow to retaliate against terrorists on Pakistani soil by calling it “out of line” with their joint counter-terror efforts but the truth is that there is no forgiveness where imperial powers are concerned. Pakistan cannot afford to take on the world’s sole superpower. It is neither wise nor viable. We cannot keep papering over the cracks in our relationship either. There are immediate short-term and long-term repercussions of annoying the US. The only solution is to go after all the Taliban factions, be they our strategic assets or not. We would not be doing the US any favour by going after the Haqqanis; in essence we would be doing ourselves the biggest favour. Pakistan needs to win this war for its own survival.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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