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November 7, 2013

Taliban to target Punjab and Sharifs, agencies warn all

November 7, 2013

ISLAMABAD: Security agencies have warned the government high-ups of a severe backlash from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan in the aftermath of Hakimullah Mehsud’s killing which may entail targeting the Punjab, the central PML-N leadership as well as the ruling Sharif family.
According to well-informed sources in the security agencies, the TTP leadership has decided to avenge the killing of their Ameer in a big way by shifting the focus of their terrorist activities to the urban and central Punjab.
The Taliban elements rightly or wrongly believe that the government had a role in the November 1 killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone attack and whatever stance Ch Nisar Ali Khan has taken with regard to the US was actually meant to deceive the Taliban and the people of Pakistan.
While Nisar has ruled out any Pakistani involvement in the drone strike that killed Hakimullah, the TTP leadership alleges that the ground intelligence about his presence in the secret Shura meeting of the TTP was provided to the Americans by the Pakistani authorities.
The Taliban are pointing the finger of suspicion at the government despite the fact that the Sharif government had been trying to woo the Taliban into holding peace talks since assuming power after the 2013 elections.
Describing Hakimullah’s killing as a major setback for the Pakistani Taliban, a senior TTPcommander Maulana Azam Tariq has already declared that their ameer had to die because of the hypocrisy of the Pakistani rulers who were actually betraying the Taliban under the garb of peace talks. On his part, while blaming the Pakistan government for the death of Hakimullha, the TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid has warned that the Taliban would soon start targeting the ruling PML-N leadership for its alleged support to the United States in the region. He further warned that the government would have to pay a heavy price for playing a double game with the TTP, which led to the demise of Hakimullha

In this background, the security agencies have informed the government high-ups that the TTP leadership has already dispatched a 12-member fidayeen squad to Punjab with the prime aim of targeting the important government functionaries including the PML-N leadership, especially the Sharif brothers and their immediate family members.
Most members of the fidayeen squad are believed to be Pasthuns from the Waziristan belt who would be informed about their respective targets in Punjab as soon as the new TTP ameer is chosen.
In fact, Punjab has seen less incidents of terrorism in recent years as compared with the other provinces, amid accusations that the PML-N government had an unannounced deal with some powerful jehadi leaders like Malik Mohammad Ishaq of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ).
Under the Shahbaz government’s policy to appease Taliban-linked sectarian-cum-jehadi leaders, many of the militant groups are being allowed by the Punjab government to operate freely across the province. Shortly before being killed by a fanatic police man in Islamabad, former Punjab Governor Salman Taseer had bitterly criticized the Shahbaz government for allowing Rana Sanaullah, Punjab’s Provincial Law Minister, to campaign for a Jhang by-election together with Maulana Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi, ameer of the banned Sunni-sectarian Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), in an official jeep escorted jointly by the Punjab police and militants. “The Sharifs are creating a potential bomb in Punjab,” Taseer had warned. But Rana Sanaullah defended his “political right,” arguing not all members of banned groups were terrorists.
Interestingly, following the Lahore terror attacks on the Manawan police training centre and the provincial headquarters of ISI in March 2010, Shahbaz Sharif had appealed to the Taliban to “spare Punjab “because the PML-N shared the Taliban’s anti-American stance.
“General Pervez Musharraf had planned a bloodbath of innocent Muslims at the behest of others only to prolong his rule. However, we had opposed his policies and rejected any dictation from abroad,” Shahbaz had told a gathering at Jamia Naeemia in Lahore after the attacks. “If the Taliban are also fighting for the same cause, then they should not carry out acts of terror in Punjab,” he had pleaded. And quite surprisingly, the militants had stopped conducting terrorist activities in Punjab following Shahbaz Sharif’s appeal.
However, all this seems to be changing in the backdrop of Hakimullha’s killing after which the Taliban are planning to shift their focus of terrorism to Punjab and the Punjab based PML-leadership.
Earlier, on August 15, 2013, the TTP had threatened to target Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif in case the GHQ attack mastermind Aqeel alias Dr Usman was hanged in the Faisalabad central prison as per the schedule on August 23, 2013. A statement released to the media by the TTP spokesman had stated that a squad of suicide bombers had been constituted and if Dr Usman is hanged, two key figures of the PML-N would be targeted to avenge the hanging. Aqeel alias Usman’s execution was subsequently deferred by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for an indefinite period.

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