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April 11, 2014

Taliban key suspect in Islamabad bombing

April 11, 2014

ISLAMABAD: Even though the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan has distanced itself from the Islamabad fruit market bombing, with the United Baloch Army claiming responsibility for the attack, the security agencies investigating the case still suspect the involvement of the Taliban.
According to well-informed sources in security agencies, the fruit market attack was masterminded by the same elements which had planned the March 3 fidayeen attack on the Islamabad district court building, which killed 10 people.
Despite the fact that the TTP had quickly distanced itself from the court assault and Ahrarul Hind had claimed responsibility, the investigating agencies had concluded that the fidayeen operation was ordered by the Taliban high command in a bid to pressurise the government to concede to its demands.
Those investigating the fruit market attack suspect the involvement of the Mohmand Agency chapter of the TTP, led by Commander Omar Khalid Khurasani who had claimed responsibility for beheading 23 Frontier Corps jawans on February 17, 2014.
According to the investigators, the fruit market bombing was most likely planned by two Taliban commanders from the Mohmand Agency, Qari Mansoor and Mufti Hasan. They pointed out that dozens of the residents of the Mohmand Agency used to work at the Islamabad fruit market as labourers. Four of them had lost their lives in the April 9 bombing and their bodies were taken to Mohmand Agency for burial the same day.
The police are still investigating some of the residents of the Mohmand Agency who were arrested from the fruit market after the bombing. The sources pointed out that while the Islamabad district court attack took place barely 36 hours after the TTP’s March 1, 2014 ceasefire announcement, the fruit market attack occurred 24 hours before the extended ceasefire deadline was set to expire on April 10.
It may be recalled that a day before the Islamabad fruit market carnage, TTP spokesman Shahidullah Shahid had

written a two-page letter addressed to the media, stating that it is a matter of grave concern that the government was dilly-dallying on three key demands of the Taliban who are holding a ceasefire against all odds. Repeating the TTP demands, he called for the establishment of a peace zone in Waziristan, release of non-combatant prisoners and an end to the crackdown against the Taliban in various parts of the country.
He said the majority of the TTP leaders had reservations over the failure of the government to fulfil its commitments made during the recent rounds of peace talks. Shahid said the Taliban had given a list of 800 civilian prisoners to government as a test case as they wanted to see how serious and sincere the government was towards the peace process. But, he said, not a single prisoner had been freed so far.
However, the most significant statement was made by Omar Khalid Khurasani, saying his faction would not extend the ceasefire and would soon begin attacks in the country. Since the federal government has failed to accept our demands during the peace talks, there would be more attacks in which common people would suffer as the government isn’t sincere in a meaningful dialogue. As the government side had expressed concern over these statements, a senior member of TTP’s political Shura, Azam Tariq, clarified that Shahidullah and Khurasani’s statements were not valid as they were not approved by the Taliban Shura before being issued.
But while distancing the TTP from the fruit market bombing, Shahidullah Shahid has condemned the attack as usual, saying that targeting public places and innocent people was un-Islamic and ‘Haram’ in the Shariah. But he did not bother to explain as to why the Taliban elements had already killed 40,000-plus innocent civilians in almost every nook and corner of Pakistan during the last ten years. Only a couple of months ago before the start of the peace talks with the government, the TTP spokesman used to proudly claim responsibility for suicide bombings targeting the security forces and innocent civilians alike. Therefore, his describing the bombings at public places as un-Islamic and ‘Haram’ simply sounds hilarious to say the least.
Those investigating the Islamabad fruit market bombing believe the responsibility claim by the United Baloch Army (UBA) was nothing more than a futile bid to get cheap popularity. An interior ministry spokesman has already stated that the initial probe suggested that the UBA had nothing to do with the blast. “Accepting responsibility for the Islamabad attack by UBA is not only surprising but ridiculous.” The interior ministry spokesman said the investigations by intelligence and security agencies had indicated that the blast had roots somewhere else. But he did not name the elements behind the blast, probably because he was not in a position to do anything that can spoil the so-called peace talks between the state of Pakistan and the non-state actors who seem to enjoy an upper hand in the dialogue process.
Well-informed officials in the security establishment still believe that the TTP leadership was not sincere in a peace deal with the state of Pakistan and that it was using the talks as a ploy to buy time and avert a military action in North Waziristan. These officials regretted that the government is negotiating with a violent terrorist group which has known Afghan and Indian links and which has the explicit agenda of overthrowing the state of Pakistan and to replace it with a Taliban Emirate. They pointed out that all the known demands of the TTP are in conflict with a constitutional and democratic polity where fundamental rights and the rule of law are meant to be paramount. Informed quarters in the security establishment regretted that the ruling political elite is literally pressuring the khaki leadership to concede to even those demands of the TTP which tantamount to surrendering the authority of the state to a bunch of the non-state actors.
The actual bone of contention is the TTP’s demand for the troops’ withdrawal to set up a peace zone in Waziristan. The khaki circles believe that it could be a ploy of the TTP to consolidate its hold and expand its influence in Waziristan as had been the case in the past.
The khakis argue that any area where the state has no writ can always be used as a sanctuary by the Taliban to regroup and consolidate them to launch a full-fledged war against the security forces. Another bone of contention is the Taliban’s demand to release 750-plus Taliban prisoners. The issue of exchange of prisoners is so far a one-sided affair in which the government has released and intends to release more Taliban prisoners in small batches after reviewing their cases for which the government has already set up a body.
But on its part, the TTP has yet to free a single hostage in their custody so far despite repeated demands to free Prof Ajmal and Yousaf Raza Gilani and Salman Taseer’s sons. Therefore, the khaki leadership has genuine reservations about this one-sided bargain with a coterie of non-state actors who seems to have been given the status of an equal stakeholder in the state.

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