By Wajid Shamsul Hasan
Recent terrorist attack targeting Peshawar Agriculture University had reasons to cause serious concerns among the members of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Assembly. Days before the third anniversary of APS massacre of December 16, 2014 the members of the provincial assembly have rightly questioned the effectiveness of the much hyped National Action Plan (NAP) and measures taken against militant outfits in the province carrying out their attacks as per their desires much to the helplessness of the law-enforcing authorities.
The attack on Peshawar’s Agriculture University claimed nine lives whereas many more in recent months make a mockery of the claims about the successes in war against terrorists by the civil and the military leadership. The impunity and contempt shown by the terrorists is a manifestation of their prowess to strike wherever and whenever they want to. Besides, it is symbolic of the failure of National Action Plan to deliver. Despite enormous investment its lack of performance shows that the authorities need to review its failure to have the desired capacity of the law enforcement agencies to meet the challenges posed by the terrorists groups having their foothold especially in the province of Punjab.
What is most alarming is the fact that the terrorists know well our soft targets and so do they know the lack of capacity of our law-enforcers in securing their earmarked vulnerable areas especially in Peshawar and Quetta. It is extremely frustrating to note that authorities despite repeated identification of the soft targets have not done much to provide protection to the people of the affected locations.
The state of uncertainty or our limbo existence seems to have crossed all limits. One had learned to live with the American, British or European advisory to their citizens when to travel and when not to be in Pakistan and that for too long Pakistan has been categorized as a hardship station for diplomats. Latest of such advisories by the Chinese Embassy in Islamabad to its nationals is sure sign of situation getting out of hand notwithstanding the various operations carried out by law-enforcing agencies with holistic Arabic captions that we have had since ages. Chinese warning to its citizens should not be taken lightly that the Chinese organizations, their offices and personnel now widely spread in Pakistan could be target of terrorists attacks. This warning has come at a time when there is a fresh wave of terrorist attacks in the midst of assurances by Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa that our armed forces won’t sit in peace until and unless they bury deep down the menace of terrorism and eliminate wherever their safe havens are. One would not like to sound pessimistic of the whole situation; the fact of the matter, however, that cannot be denied is that except of course claims of illusionary successes by various players in the game, there are hardly any achievements that could show glimmer of silver lining from behind the dark clouds. It was truly and fearsomely forecast after 9/11 that the world has been plunged in a century of terror and that it would be difficult to extricate itself from the situation worsening by the day. The extra-ordinary security warning by the Chinese to its nationals and organizations doing business in Pakistan should be taken as a matter of deep concern since it amounts to an indirect expression of lack of enough confidence in the security arrangements that we have in the country. It is also not any good reflection on our claims to successes in combating terrorism. In an overall assessment of the situation one can say that it is a manifestation of our total failure in addressing right-earnestly contradictions in our domestic and foreign policies that worsen the compounded situation.
The fresh wave of terrorist attacks show that there is lack of proper coordination between investigative and intelligence agencies. There is no doubt that effective steps need to be taken to improve the process of intelligence gathering and sharing which is a sine quo non to effectively counter terrorists in attacking soft targets. Instead of jumping to the gun to identify foreign hand immediately after any incident, our law enforcers should be made aware of their responsibility to thoroughly investigate their own intelligence failures and security lapses. Easy acceptance by the higher ups of the involvement of foreign hands as a fait accompli, in order to show their unwillingness to accept the blame game, axing of dead wood could inject seriousness in the business of national security. Incidents such as Faizabad Dharna and laying of siege of the federal capital by the group of clerics should not have been treated lightly as it was when it amounted to be an act of terror.
Powers that be let go off easy the Faizabad protestors providing an excuse to leaders like PTI’s Imran Khan to have truck with the self-declared father of Taliban Maulana Samiul Haq whose Madressah reputedly provided safe haven to the killers of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto ten years ago. Collaboration of political leaders with suspects is nothing but open violation of National Action Plan. Terrorists allegedly involved in the Peshawar’s Agriculture University attack had reportedly graduated from Samiul Haq’s seminary Darul Uloom Haqqania. It would be in the fitness of the matter that the KPK lawmakers also demand Imran Khan to stop supporting facilitators and sympathisers of terrorists. It needs to be emphasized that providing political legitimacy by association to sympathisers of terrorist groups tantamount to desecrating the enormous sacrifices in blood rendered by the shuhda.
Like the Americans who have been consistent in demanding from Pakistan to do more, Chinese too would soon become wary of our contradictions in dealing with the terrorists. What message would the Americans and Chinese have when a former president and ex-army chief General Pervez Musharraf-perhaps out there to settle his old scores-keeps on orchestrating every fortnight his support for UN and US declared terrorist such as Hafiz Saeed and terrorist organisation LeT. All those who matter in global politics know well the role played by the previous Army Chief General Raheel Sharif to facilitate Musharraf escape from the clutches of law to avoid trial and prosecution in former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s murder trial. Similarly, the dubious role played by the establishment in brokering a deal favourable to the clerics in the recent three week long Dharna does not require any clarification or explanation. For all practical purposes, the dharna left the PML-N government in a state of limbo now unfolding in the unraveling of its artificially glued unity. Could there be a more pathetic situation than the fact that its ministers are busier in telling the nation that their fun time is over and a caretaker government with a longer shelf life is being clobbered by the powers that be.
While the terrorists who come into Pakistan from Afghanistan or our own home-grown terrorists enjoying freedom and funding to operate from their epicenter in Punjab or who for a long time been our strategic assets-have been carrying on their business as usual striking at will, wherever and whenever they want to. Their fixed targets include Hazaras of Quetta, Charshada, sporadic incidents in Peshawar etc. On December 16, 2014 they struck at the Army Public School in Peshawar massacring over 150 mostly students. It saw the birth of National Action Plan (NAP) under an overly chatty Interior Minister with no claim to any performance. NAP was a total failure under Ch Nisar Ali Khan and it is no better now. A formal burial would be in order on its third anniversary. Roman philosopher Cicero believed that certain ominous signs precede certain events. Chinese security warning to its nationals and organisations require to be attended to on top priority not merely by verbal assurances but by practical steps too that could be seen as well and felt in relief.
Chinese stakes are much too high in CPEC, investment in One-belt, one road-more than 64 billion dollars worth, thousands of their labourers are employed in speedy target achievements. Large number of their family members too are there living in their exclusive quarters. No doubt for Pakistan too it is a game-changer and it would be a major beneficiary. It would lead to opening up floodgates of investments. Pre-requisite for all that would require creation of a feel-safe security environment. And regretfully we are far from it.
Over the years, our law-enforcers have got into the habit of shifting the blame of their failures on invisible foreign hands. It should be a matter of concern for us that instead of providing security or create confidence among the foreign investors to visit Pakistan to do business in safe atmosphere, we tend to go to Dubai or Abu Dhabi to finalise our deals with foreigners. While hoping our law-enforcers would wake up to reactivate National Action Plan (NAP) towards generating confidence in national security management, one would also like the Supreme Court to act on its own in cases of missing persons mostly journalists, academics and human rights activists –latest victim being Raza Khan, a peace activist based in Lahore who hasn’t been heard from since December 3. Raza was critical of the deal brokered by army general in the Faizabad Dharna between the government and the Tehrik -e-Labaik. His disappearance reminds one of human rights activist Sabeen Mehmood’s case. She went missing soon after she hosted a debate on Balochistan conflict. Later she was eliminated by ‘usual suspects’. It is regretful that neither Punjab Chief Minister nor his IGP have done anything to recover Raza. One hopes the CJP would act before it is too late.
(The author is former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)