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Opinion

August 30, 2015

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Economic terrorism

The roots of terrorism in South Asia can be traced back to 1979 when the Russian Red Army invaded Afghanistan as part of its expansionist designs to become the sole proprietor of the world. The socio-economic and political institutions of Afghanistan were undermined by the occupying forces for promoting their Communist agenda. However, following the disintegration of the Soviet Union and subsequent withdrawal of its army from the war-ravaged Afghanistan, the field was left open for the succeeding mujahideen to manage the affairs of the country at their own discretion.
After the fall of the Russian-backed Najibullah’s government in 1992, Afghanistan went through different phases, rules and roles. During this era, militancy changed its faces from mujahid to mullah and Talib to Al-Qaeda – and now Daesh.
These developments on the western border of Afghanistan did not leave Pakistan unaffected. Maulana Sufi Muhammad, leader of the Tanzeem-e-Nifaz-e-Shariah-e-Muhammadi was the first to take the lead and come out to the streets to demand the implementation of Shariah in the Malakand Division. This was a time when the Afghan Taliban had emerged on the political scene of Afghanistan.
Starting from Kandahar in the south of the country, in a short span of only two years (1994-1996), the Taliban were able to consolidate their power over 90 percent of the land. In December 2007, the Pakistani Taliban formed an umbrella organisation of almost 40 militant organisations under the banner of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) with commander Baitullah Mehsud in the lead.
By then the ongoing war against terror had become ‘a war industry’ allowing all the stakeholders to get their due share from the ‘war economy’. Criminals, kidnappers, gangsters, drugs and timber mafia, politicians and bureaucrats all grabbed their share at their respective entry points.
And some journalists were also part of this. They glorified terrorists and their cause by making

them out to be heroes while selling them out in the mainstream media and particularly the world’s leading media outlets against huge prices.
To eliminate terror networks, we need to address the evil nexus that has been fuelling terrorism and violent extremism for commercial interests. Business tycoons from the construction and transport industry, spare parts dealers and rice merchants in Karachi have allegedly been financing violent extremism and terrorism for promoting their commercial agendas. We need to cut off the supply line that has been providing oxygen to the dying soul of terrorism.
Sensing the gravity of the situation, Army Chief General Raheel Sharif, during his visit to Karachi, directed law-enforcement personnel to break the evil nexus between terrorism, criminal mafias, violence and corruption. He said that the operation would continue across the board against terrorists, criminals and mafias in Karachi. The statement from the chief of the army staff is a clear message to those who have been part of this evil nexus.
General Raheel Sharif’s statement followed the arrest of former federal minister and chairman of the Sindh Higher Education Commission, Dr Asim Hussain, on charges of financing terrorists. Dr Asim, a close aide to former president Asif Ali Zardari, is under preventive detention. In a latest development, an anti-corruption court issued non-bailable arrest warrants for former prime minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani and former federal minister for commerce Amin Fahim in a multi-billion trade subsidy scam (TDAP).
The high-profile arrest of Dr Asim and similar developments prompted the PPP leadership to warn the government of serious consequences if any action is taken against Asif Ali Zardari. The opposition leader in the National Assembly, Khurshid Shah, was quoted as saying that any such action may trigger a war. Shah did not clarify who the war would be against.
While defending their leadership involved in various corruption cases, party stalwarts through press conferences and TV talk shows have been terming it a victimisation of the party’s leaders, and that the party is being pushed to the wall. A similar stance is taken by the MQM leadership when it comes to any action against them by the Rangers in Karachi. Any attempt by the media to highlight these cases is simply termed as a media trial.
We are in a state of war that demands a coordinated effort on the part of all the relevant stakeholders – the government, political parties and the military leadership together with public support – to make this final showdown against the militants a success.
Pakistan is faced with a number of challenges at the domestic as well as international fronts. With tension on its eastern as well as western borders, the country can hardly afford to concentrate more on domestic challenges. The challenges on the international front demand our home to be in order. To that end, we must bring the war against terror to its logical end. Some encouraging developments on the national front speak for a better and brighter tomorrow.
Operation Zarb-e-Azb has been yielding good results. With the launch of a ground offensive in the mountainous Shawal valley, the Fata-based militants seem to be on the run. Keeping their stunning victories a streak, the military has broken the back of the terrorists. General Raheel Sharif’s frequent visits to the battlefield in the Shawal valley have been boosting the morale of his soldiers in winning this decisive phase. On most of the occasions he has personally been attending the funerals of his soldiers. He was seen celebrating Eid with his soldiers on the battlefield in North Waziristan. This means a lot to his fighting lot on the ground.
Karachi presents a different look after the operation. One feels more at ease travelling to and stay at Karachi – once the city of target killers, extortionists, robbers and land mafias. On the other hand, good news is emerging from Balochistan. Self-exiled leader and chief of the Balochistan Republican Party (BRP), Brahamdagh Bugti, has expressed willingness to hold talks with the government and give up his demand for an independent Balochistan.
Terming it a great breakthrough, Chief Minister Baluchistan Dr Abdul Malik Baloch has said that this would help resolve the Balochistan issue politically. The Khan of Kalat, Mir Suleman Daud Khan, has also expressed his willingness to play his role in the issue of Baluchistan. His comeback may lead to a major breakthrough towards a peaceful settlement of the longstanding Balochistan conflict.
The writer heads the FATA Research Centre (FRC) in Islamabad.
Email: [email protected]

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