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The Birds have Come Home to Roost: Pakistan Faces Terror Attacks in Lahore and Islamabad

MG is a keen political observer and commentator who has a ringside seat to the turbulent years of the present political scenario

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Background

Pakistan has been facing unprecedented terrorist attacks. In 2022, Pakistan has had terrorist attacks in the heart of the capital, Islamabad and another in Lahore. The figures available in 25 days of this year show a total of 36 fatalities including 22 military personnel. ( Ref https://www.satp.org/datasheet-terrorist-attack/fatalities/pakistan).

Pakistan is also in the grey list of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) for terror financing since 2012. (https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/explained-why-has-fatf-retained-pakistan-on-grey-list/article37121875.ece )

How did Pakistan reach this precarious position? Most of the terrorist groups in Pakistan were raised by the Pakistan army as a sort of second line of defence but they have all turned renegade and wish to enforce the sharia in Pakistan. The leader of this crowd is the Afghan Taliban's Pakistan branch known as the Pakistan Taliban. In succeeding paragraphs we shall see how Pakistan reached the present position where the Tehrik-e- Taliban Pakistan(TTP) is openly fighting the Pakistan state.

Terrorism in Pakistan

In 1947, the state of Pakistan was created by an act of the British parliament ( India Independence Act 1946)and Muhammad Ali Jinnah became the first Governor-General. Muhammad Ali Jinnah was a secular person and he envisaged a state where all religions would be equal. His early death ended his dream as the leaders who succeeded him were extremely sectarian, so much so that in 1971 a major portion of the country which spoke the Bengali language broke away and formed Bangladesh.

The role of the catalyst in this metamorphosis was played by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and the president of Pakistan at that time, General Yahya Khan. Bhutto became president and later Prime Minister and the roots of the present problem can be traced to him. He was a diabolical individual whose one point ambition was to remain in power, even if the country broke up into two. Bhutto was popular but he was not omnipotent in Pakistan and he was feeling extremely insecure. To perpetuate his rule he began to bring in laws to Islamise the country. He was the man who brought in prohibition, declared the Ahmedi's as non-Muslims, and began to talk of the Islamic Bomb.

The door to religious fanaticism had now been opened and like the proverbial genie who came out of the bottle, in the tale of Alladin, it was not going to go back. Bhutto faced poetic justice, as he was hanged for a murder that he had not committed.

The next man who took over after a military coup was the man who got Bhutto hanged in Rawalpindi jail is General Zia ul- Haq. Pakistan has to thank Zia for its present predicament. He had no political base and to shore up his power he began to pander to the extremist elements of Pakistan society by enacting laws like the Hooded ordnance which took crimes like rape of women out of the purview of Pakistan Penal Code. Zia also introduced a mandatory death sentence for blasphemy. He was assassinated in a bomb attack on his aircraft but it took the Pakistan government 30 years to reform the Hooded ordinance. The net result of all this is that the extremist elements in Pakistan got emboldened and they began to press for a change in the Pakistan state and enforcement of sharia.

Pakistan under Zia began to nurture terrorist groups like the Jaish e- Muhammad who were encouraged to infiltrate into Indian Kashmir and create terrorist acts. This was in line with General Zia's policy to bleed India with a100 cuts. This policy was fraught with danger and the world soon began to realize that Pakistan was becoming the epi-center of terror.

The Pakistan government also began to prop up one section of the Taliban, the Haqqani faction against the Afghan government. When the Taliban won in Afghanistan, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan thought the troubles of Pakistan were over and he made a statement that the shackles have been broken. The Pakistan government brought pressure to bear on the Taliban to try and rein in the Pakistan Taliban but ultimately nothing has happened and the TTP Pakistan has started attacks all over the country.

Even the Afghan Taliban to a degree is hostile to Pakistan because it does not recognize the Durand Line as the border and at the same time they have a feeling that Pakistan society is corrupt.

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Pakistan is in a dire economic state with runaway inflation and billions of dollars in debt. It is unable to support and help the Taliban. The Afghan Taliban have refused to rein in the TTP.

Pakistan has become an extremely dangerous society as can be seen from the fact that a Sri Lanka national working as the manager in Sialkot was bludgeoned to death on a charge of blasphemy. There have been more than 70 persons who have been killed in extrajudicial killings on the ground that the accused had committed blasphemy. Prime Minister Imran Khan himself is to blame for what all is happening because, in the 2018 elections, he had defended the death sentence for blasphemy.(https://www.france24.com/en/20180724-unease-imran-khan-invokes-blasphemy-pakistan-election).

Epilogue

With the economy in shambles, Imran Khan is himself under siege. His bugbear is the latest electoral defeats as well as mounting foreign debt. Pakistani girls singing songs of praise 'Salam Taliban' was the wrong signal. it has become clear to the Pakistan government that the Taliban and the Pakistan Taliban are seamless organizations. The realization has also dawned on Pakistan, that the policy of nurturing terrorist groups in Pakistan is leading them nowhere and all over the world Pakistan is losing ground very fast. The EU Parliament has already in a resolution warned Pakistan to change the laws on blasphemy and other matters or they would lose their favorable trading rights.

Pakistan must look towards the United Arab Emeritus and Saudi Arabia that are turning a new leaf and doing away with obscurantism but unfortunately in Pakistan, the opposite is happening. Hardly any Pakistani is concerned about the blasphemy law and the fact that their country has been put on the watchlist as a terror state. The United States' State Sponsors of Terrorism designation list describes Pakistan as a "terrorist safe haven."

One wonder if it has dawned on the Pakistan state that terrorism in all its forms cannot be a state policy.

Further reading

Global conflict tracker-https://www.cfr.org/global-conflict-tracker/conflict/islamist-militancy-pakistan

Pakistan; Terrorism Ground Zero By Rohan Gunaratna and Khuram Iqbal (Reaktion Books)

Zia-ul-Haq and the rise of religious extremism in Pakistan by Hashmat Ullah Khan.https://www.researchgate.net/publication/345045595_ZIA-UL-HAQ_AND_THE_RISE_OF_RELIGIOUS_EXTREMISM_IN_PAKISTAN

Terrorism in Pakistan: the psychosocial context and why it matters. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6020923/


© 2022 MG Singh emge

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