War from Kabul to Peshawar and then …

Wali Khan spent the last days of his life at home in one of the most beautiful places in the Swat Valley. The house which is surrounded by greenery and a picturesque river has a significant place in the history of Pakistani politics.

Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Wali Khan took several important decisions in this house. I met Wali Khan in the same house in the 1980s along with other senior journalists. An active politician, Wali Khan had foretold that the situation will become dangerous especially in the NWFP if Pakistan would not stop sending armed people to Afghanistan in the name of Jihad. Most people did not share his foresight at the time, however, his prediction has proved true today.

I remembered his words again as I read the news about militants attacking and damaging the residence of the late ANP leader, Khan Abdul Wali Khan. The war that started in Afghanistan in the 1980s by Ziaul Haq in the name of Jihad has now reached Peshawar from Kabul.

A few days ago, I had the chance to meet Mian Iftikhar Ahmed, a minister of NWFP (Pakhtoonkhawa) in an informal meeting held in Karachi. He was here to attend a conference, which was to be convened by the Sindh Inter Provincial Coordination (IPC) Minister, Makhdoom Jameeluzzaman. However, the conference was cancelled due to other engagements of the federal IPC Minister, Raza Rabbani. I was the only journalist in this luncheon meeting with other guests Mian Iftikhar Ahmed, Information and IPC NWFP, PPP leaders Nafees Siddiqi, ANP Sindh Chief Shahi Syed, Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan Secretaries IPC and Joint Secretary IPC federal government. The purpose was to create an IPC ministry and the departments in the provinces were to share their problems and suggest solutions.

Taking advantage of this occasion, I asked Mian Iftikhar about the situation in the NWFP. Most of the information that he shared was off-the-record. However, it was quite alarming. He explained that the people who had elected religious parties in the last election rejected them this time around and as a result the ANP and other liberal parties came into power. The people of NWFP were happy over this change while the political parties had the mandate to serve and develop the province.

He said that their major demand to change the name of NWFP to Pakhtoonkhawa has been accepted as the PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari had agreed for the constitutional amendment to change the name of the province. Unfortunately, the situation changed suddenly, just after the government started planning. Terrorists came out and started sabotage and suicide activities in the province. Consequently, the government started negotiations with Jihadi groups to handle the situation and people welcomed this move as they wanted peace. However, some quarters got angry with this political move and finally the terrorists increased their activities.

Being a political party, the ANP persuaded the public to stand united against terrorism. People and tribes took action against terrorists in their respective areas, which forced the terrorists to take shelter in other areas including Swat. In retaliation, the terrorists who are equipped with modern arms and latest communication equipments, spread terrorism by exploding schools, government buildings and taking civilians hostage while there is an Army operation in progress.

Mian Iftikhar said that his province needed political, moral and financial support to fight against terrorists — which in fact should be construed as a fight for Pakistan. He added that the writ of the government is only followed in Peshawar, but the provincial capital is also under the siege. Terrorists in the provincial capital have attacked not only the Governor, but also other government functionaries. Mian Iftikhar asserted that support for the NWFP situation should be the top priority, otherwise the situation will soon be out of control. He emphasised that the terrorists would not stop in the NWFP, they will also enter Islamabad, Punjab and other provinces.

He further disclosed that Punjab is also not safe from the threat of terrorism as some terrorists also come from training camps in southern Punjab. After the NWFP they would spread their fight to Punjab, if the provincial and federal government do not take action.

Unfortunately, the media and religious parties call these elements ‘Jihadis’. However, they are terrorists because Jihadis never kill women, children and explode schools. “If somebody has the impression that terrorists will stop at Attock border in the NWFP, they are living in a fool’s paradise. Terrorism is a threat for all, they will not stop until they have breached Islamabad, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.”

His community is looking for support from the entire nation. “Please do something before everything is destroyed,” Mian Iftikhar said.

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