June issue 2009

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 15 years ago

Some government officials still continue to live in a state of denial. Take the Punjab law minister, for instance.  He saw an “Indian hand” in the recent suicide bombing of Rescue 15 and the ISI headquarters in Lahore in which 30 people were killed and around 300 injured. Can’t a legal mind fathom that the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan are being hit hard by the army operation in Swat and that they are retaliating in the manner they know best: suicide bombings?

The Punjab law minister does not have to cover up for the Taliban.  They already have avid fans in the persons of the Tehreek-i-Insaaf chief, Imran Khan, and the former Jamaat amir, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, who continue to castigate the army and the Americans for their sins and turn a blind eye to the atrocities of “Allah’s warriors.” Possibly to ensure an exalted position for themselves in the Taliban paradise?

The army faces tough times ahead.  The enemy is ruthless, relentless and adept in the art of guerrilla warfare.  And if two million plus internally displaced persons travel to Pakistan with only the clothes on their back and experience equally traumatic times in camps, in extreme weather conditions with no running water or electricity and only limited rations, the pressure on the Pakistan Army to succeed — and fast — will mount.  And then, too, there are no guarantees that the Taliban, who have a vast network of battle-hardened fighters and financial backers within and outside the country, will not return to haunt them.  The army will have to secure the places it has cleaned up and put a foolproof security network in place. More importantly, the Frontier government will have to move fast to establish its writ, get the infrastructure up and running, and persuade the police force and the civil servants, who had deserted their posts following the beheadings, to return.

Unfortunately, Swat is only the beginning of the story. The army and the government will have to fight many more battles ahead in order to put our house in order. For one, they will need to keep an eye on the proliferating madrassas that are spewing hatred and brainwashing impressionable minds. Maulana Aziz and Hafiz Saeed are on the loose again, and we have seen them and their protégés in action.

Secondly, there has to be a major rethink of our foreign policy in order to rid the country of the menace of Talibanisation.  The army and its intelligence network, which has often been accused of maneuvering foreign policy, will have to drop words like “jihad,” “strategic depth” and “foot soldiers” from its vocabulary in order for any political government to make headway in improving its relations with Afghanistan and India.

The Taliban were created to wage a “holy war” against the Soviets in Afghanistan, not to wage a war against the world, using Pakistan as their base and reducing the entire Pakistani nation to pulp or a state of pariahs.  For that is what we of the green passports have become — a nation of pariahs. If we are desirous of regaining our reputation as a dignified nation, we will have to lay to rest the ghost of the Taliban forever.

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.