Recent suicide bombing at the mausoleum of renowned sufi of twelfth century, Lal Shahbad Qalandar, killed around a hundred people in Sehwan Sharif, Pakistan. Several bomb blasts have hit Lahore in the last two weeks, exposing the vulnerability of the Islamic nation from such terrorist attacks.
While Pakistan has been facing the specter of terror attacks for the last two decades, it seems to be the very first time when the Pakistani government has woken up to the threat. The foremost backer of terrorist organizations in the South Asian region and even beyond, Pakistan has launched a crackdown on terrorist organizations including the ones it propped, financed and nurtured.
Terror attacks in Pakistan are not new. The South Asian nation has lost thousands of men, women and children in terrorist attacks ranging from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to Punjab, Islamabad, Karachi and Baluchistan. Its action against terror outfits also is not new. For the last more than a decade now, Pakistan has been engaged against home-grown insurgency in areas of FATA, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Baluchistan.
At one point of time, the writ of the likes of Mulla Fazlullah, nicknamed as Mulla Radio, for his inciting radio speeches full of religious rhetoric, ruled a region extending thousands and thousands of miles. But the Pakistani Army, under the leadership of Gen. Rahil Sharif pursued and partially destroyed the massive infrastructure that different terrorist organizations –formed and funded by Pakistani establishment –had created.
The scenic Valley of Swat was once under the complete control of Tahreek-e-Taliban, Pakistan. Pakistani army lost thousands of men in the fight against such terror outfits. After bloody war conducted by Pakistan against hydra-headed monster, spanning over several long and frustrating years, Pakistani Army has been able to create a semblance of normalcy in those parts of the troubled nation.
But Pakistani government, while fighting a bloody anti-terror war on Afghanistan-Pakistan border, was rearing a full army of terrorists close to Indian border that it had been using against anti-India terrorist activities. While it was fighting terrorists in FATA, Baluchistan and conducting a low level anti-insurgency operation in its commercial capital of Karachi, it was still funding anti-India terrorist organizations. The outfits like Jaishe Muhammad, Jamatud Dawa or Lashkare Taiba and dozens of others, were given a free hand, allowed and financed to build massive training center for terrorist activities.
While Pakistan couldn’t match Indian might in building a lean and mean fighting machinery along the India-Pakistan border or equal India in economic development, it wanted to bleed India through the use of these terrorist outfits it has been building since Zia ul Haq years in power.
It was Zia, who had turned Pakistani army, built on professional and secular ethos, into an army of a theocratic state. With the help of religious organizations like Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan, Jamiat Ulama-e-Islam Pakistan and many other similar organizations, he tried to seek legitimacy for himself as he prolonged his presidency well beyond its ‘expiry’ date.
These organizations brought massive human resources in the form of future terrorists, that these organizations branded as ghazis (holy warriors) and mujahid (fighters in the way of the religion). Besides, these organizations gave a semblance of legitimacy to his rule and even formed a government under Islami Jamhoori Ittehad, a rag-tag alliance of religious zealouts and some pliant politicians.
This changed the whole structure of the Pakistani society. Zia, with the help of money - pouring from Saudi Arabia and United States - the muscle power and support of the religious outfits, not just got involved in Afghanistan, but launched a massive insurgency in Kashmir.
Over-zealot Islamist organizations in Pakistan, pursuing the dream of expansion of ‘Islamic nation’ of Pakistan, and their own ‘salvation’ in the process, continued supporting Zeya in his ‘unholy’ designs. Later, they were in the lap of General Pervez Musharraf, as soon as he called for Jihad against India. While his misadventure in Kargil –that saw annihilation of a large number of terrorists from such organizations –flopped completely, he continued to support insurgent groups. Now the devil seems to have turned against the benefactor itself.
Pakistan has always made distinction between terrorist groups that it fights and those that it supports. Even while the Pak army was fighting in FATA and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it continued to support the likes of Jaish-e-Muhammad and Jamiatud Dawa of Hafiz Saeed, who was once associated with Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan’s student wing, Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba.
The role of the likes of Jaish and Lashkar-e-Taiba in terrorist attacks across India is no secret. There are many video interviews of Hafiz Saeed, with well-known Pakistani journalists, in which he talks about how he has been trying to bleed India. He has boasted his role in Mumbai blasts and has always painted it as a religious war.
But now, after a spate of terrorist attacks in Lahore and at a revered Sufi shrine in Sehwan Sharif, Sindh, Pakistan seems to have realized that it is these organizations that are spreading terrorism across the country and destroying it brick by brick. The monster is turning against its own creator.
There is realization among Pakistani civil society that instead of bleeding and destabilizing India, through creating, financing and backing such terrorist outfits, the Pakistani nation has scripted its own destruction. Internal security in Pakistan is in complete mess, solely due to the presence of extra judicial bodies that have been given a free hand to preach hatred and arm and train future terrorists. Without acting against them and against the ideology of hate that is being spread by many in the country, Pakistan will never be secure.
There are reasons to believe that Pakistani security forces are now, for the first time, taking action against extremist outfits in Punjab that created sectarian strife.
Abbas Nasir, a columnist in Pakistani daily, Dawn, says, “Yes, the current security operations are quite clearly and rightly aimed at the so-called takfiris, those who kill in the name of faith and consider even Muslims following a different interpretation of their religion as deserving of death…By definition, such ideology defies what the vast, peaceful majority in the country believes to be Islam. Will it be enough then for the government, security forces and society at large to be content if and when the takfiri thought represented by the Taliban and their allies is defeated?”
“To me, a larger battle will be the one to somehow move society to a ‘live and let live’ state from the current intolerant, even bigoted, environment” says he.
Pakistani deep state has differentiated between ‘good’ terrorists and ‘bad’ terrorists for long. It is about time, it reversed the policy, destroyed the terrorist launch pads across in the country and stopped preaching hate against one and all.