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September 24, 2015
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Lessons not learnt

Opinion

September 24, 2015

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My last column, ‘Waiting for a tragedy’, that appeared on September 13 proved to be a wake-up call that went unattended till one more tragedy took its toll.
The nation, still recovering from the shock of the tragic incident of the Army Public School in Peshawar late last year, was once again shattered by another bloody militant assault – again in Peshawar but this time with a different target. Afghanistan-based armed men affiliated with the TTP sneaked into Peshawar, stormed the PAF camp at Badaber, killing 29 men both civilian and uniformed and injuring the same number of people. Thirteen militants who launched the assault were also killed in the process.
Politicians from all the mainstream and local political parties condemned the attack in their own relative terms to put in their share and justify their representative positions. The media covered the issue to discuss its nature, timing and implications for national and regional security. Others discussed at length the Taliban’s operational capacity and potential threats with respective ‘moral ends’ to close the story.
With the lori (a bedtime story usually told by grandmothers), the nation is off into slumber till, God forbid, another tragedy strikes.
As was better told by Abraham Lincoln, you can fool some people all the time, all the people for some time but you cannot fool all the people all the time. This notion does not fit well here. We are given tranquilisers till the next morning only when we see another horrible story in the making.
A number of attacks of the same nature – from the one on the GHQ in 2009 to the one on the Kamra airbase and PNS, followed by the militant attack on the Karachi airport on June 8, 2014 to the militant assault of December 16, 2014 that hit APS in Peshawar and now this latest assault on Badaber – were all launched on the same established pattern.
In all these attacks, the attackers came in uniform, stormed the gates to kill the guards

and gatekeepers and to try to reach the targets by splitting into groups. Attackers on suicide missions are all killed before the mission is accomplished. The same mechanism was followed in the Bannu and DI Khan jail breaks. But neither the sitting not the previous ministers for interior had the moral courage to confess to a security lapse.
Our politicians spare no moment in pointing fingers at our neighbours on the eastern and western borders. Federal Minister for Information Parvaiz Rashid is the perfect choice to silence the local enemy – the political rivals – on the domestic front but we would require the services of Khwaja Asif when playing a blame game on the international front. This time too, Khwaja Asif came to the rescue of the government to put the blame on the Ashraf Ghani-led government of Afghanistan that failed to deliver even one percent of what they had committed in response to what he called Pakistan’s commitment – denying sanctuaries to the Haqqani Network on its soil.
Khwaja Asif’s statement followed a clear-cut message from the spokesman of the ISPR, Major General Asim Saleem Bajwa, that the terrorist attack was planned, executed and controlled from Afghanistan but what he meant was that it was done so by the Afghanistan-based Pakistani militants, not the government of Afghanistan.
These kinds of statements from a responsible forum – the minister of defence – in the wake of already tense relations between the two countries minimise the chances of building a conducive environment for the on-going efforts for peace-building in Afghanistan and the region at large.
Advisor to Prime Minister Sartaj Aziz made it clear at the floor of the House a few days ago that chances for resumption of the peace process seemed brighter after the top contenders to the Taliban leadership, Mullah Muhammad Yaqoob and Mullah Abdul Manan, withdrew their claims and pledged allegiance to the incumbent Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour. On the one hand, this would allow the spoilers both in Afghanistan and Pakistan to capitalise on the trust deficit between the two governments and move ahead with their nasty designs.
On the other hand, the Afghan government should also be mindful of the fact that if the road to peace in Pakistan lies through Afghanistan, Afghanistan too can hardly enjoy smooth travel without a peaceful Pakistan. Then why this blame game?
The consecutive militant attacks on an army base in the neighbourhood of Shah Shaheed and then Kabul Airport followed by the lethal bombing in the Kunduz district in northern Afghanistan that rocked the country prompted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to make harsh statements about Pakistan while announcing a halt to the on-going peace process between his government and the Taliban being held in Pakistan.
One is confused about how President Ghani’s efforts to expose Pakistan’s dubious character will earn a good name for his fragile government that is faced with a number of challenges on the domestic as well as international fronts? President Ghani, who has been all praise for Pakistan’s current political and military leadership, was immediately joined by his chief executive Abdullah Abdullah to put his share in criticising Pakistan’s leadership for sponsoring the current wave of extremism in Afghanistan after the new Taliban leader Mullah Akhatr Mansour took command of the Afghan Taliban movement.
This situation was well-exploited by the spoilers to speed up their activities along the Pak-Afghan border. The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban seem to be at work in eastern Afghanistan.
The Kunar and Nuristan-based Pakistani Taliban hit the Badaber camp in Peshawar on September 18. The following day – on September 19 – a roadside bomb killed five policemen in the eastern province of Paktia. The same day in another development a bomb explosion wounded at least eight civilians in the Asadabad district of Kunar that borders the Bajaur Agency of the volatile tribal belt of Pakistan. This Pak-Afghan Taliban nexus is the direct beneficiary of the prevailing tension on our western borders.
The gravity of the situation calls for unanimity and coordinated efforts on the part of all the state organs on the domestic front and regional actors especially Pakistan, Afghanistan and the US on the international front to join forces and fight a total war against this common enemy on both sides of the border to give our war-riddled people a chance to live with peace.
The writer heads the FATA Research Centre (FRC) in Islamabad.
Email: [email protected]

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