Editorial: DAILY TIMES
National ‘mind damage’ by Taliban

The NWFP Senior Minister, Mr Bashir Ahmed Bilour, has revealed that 200 “completely brainwashed” children of ages 6 to 13 years have been recovered from Malakand, ready to act as suicide-bombers for the Taliban. Further details are quite unsettling: the children are so completely transformed by their trainers that they refuse to reintegrate into normal society and even threaten their parents with death because they are “non-believers”.

We know that children were increasingly being used by the Taliban for their terrorist attacks in recent times. The pattern even contained the message that the Taliban and Al Qaeda were finding it increasingly difficult to train grown-up individuals to do the job. We also know that a child from Karachi is being prosecuted for being a part of the plot that took the life of Ms Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi in 2007. But new details about the use of suicide-bombing coming to light establish a pattern of employing children rather than men.

Our troops discovered suicide-factories in South Waziristan where children brought in from all over Pakistan were kept and “trained” by men who had become famous for their expertise at “converting” the boys in “half an hour”. A cleric from South Punjab was actually caught as he returned from South Waziristan after delivering the latest batch of child bombs to Baitullah Mehsud. This is the worst mind damage that the Taliban movement has done to Pakistan. It has nothing to do with Islam directly but Islam is certainly being misused as an instrument of brainwash.

The 200 child suicide-bombers now in army custody should be handled with great care. They have to be put through a debriefing with a psychologist who should grade them in accordance with the intensity of their alienation from society. They should not be let out into society after a “corrective” sermon from a cleric. That will not work, as shown again and again by men who suffered punishment in prisons, including Guantanamo Bay, and then went right back to practising terrorism once they were released.

Generally speaking, Pakistani children are ripe for the plucking. Poor and deprived, they are primed with religious instruction, as embodied in our syllabi, and succumb to Taliban trainers willingly because of the orthodox views inculcated in them by our school system. While the instruction in state-owned schools is completely benign, some of its elements are selectively employed by the trainers to fashion a suicide-bomber out of the boy. The idea of “shahadat” and the attainment of paradise are misapplied, and the Muslims that he is supposed to kill through his suicide are first apostatised into kafirs.

Unfortunately, a concordance between the orthodox clergy and the Taliban trainers helps the evil process. For instance, the condemnation of suicide-bombing through a collective fatwa issued by the ulema of Pakistan recognises the phenomenon of suicide-bombers as “fedayeen” and outlaws suicide-bombing only when it targets “innocent Muslims”. From this legal base, the boys are easily convinced that they are dying in the cause of Islam by killing those who have rendered themselves non-believers by their acts.

The national consensus against the Taliban, and effective military operations against them, have turned the tide of grown-up suicide bombers. The conduct of the state too has helped in this. For instance, Jamil and Khalique who tried to kill President Pervez Musharraf in Rawalpindi in 2003 by ramming their explosive-laden car into his cavalcade, were Jaish-e-Muhammad operatives who once fought the covert war against India and were caught fighting against the Americans in 2001 in Afghanistan. Thinking they would change their ways, the agencies let them off, which was a mistake.

Now, of course, the illusions of covert war have been more or less eliminated and the army is fighting against the jihadis that once were its extended front rank. This has changed the trend. The jihadis offer themselves less and less as suicide-bombers; and if they do, they have proved less and less reliable. The new trend is to get caught and start spilling the beans on their patrons, which is actually a measure of success of the army in its war against the Taliban. Ajmal Kasab had the option of suicide; he did not take it. And he has spilled a lot of beans.

The “mind damage” at the national level is being gradually healed as “intimidation” under the control of Taliban is less and less possible. But those who have been roped into becoming suicide-bombers are a special case. And if they are children they should be kept in quarantine and reintegrated into a society that they should view as benign.


An act stinking foul
This act of the ANP-led Frontier government stinks repulsively foul, as its arrest drama of TNSM’s Sufi Mohammad raises more questions than it answers. Too slim is the official version put out by Mian Iftikhar, the ANP man bossing over this provincial government’s information activity. Buy this would not even truckers parking their lorries in this ANP Goebbels’ truck adda, so riddled it is with holes. He says the Sufi was arrested as he was planning to destroy the restored peace in Malakand. But why was this old witch roaming free, in the first place? Wasn’t his act as satanic as his thuggish son-in law Fazlullah’s in pushing Malakand to the precipice, to pull the region back from where have cost so many precious lives, such a massive painful displacement of civilian populace and such a colossal human suffering? So why had he been left at large, and that too, yet more intriguingly, to live as a free man in the very provincial metropolis of Peshawar under the very noses of Frontier’s top official hierarchy and its ANP-led political leadership? What kind of an underground could it be that Iftikhar talks of the old hag having slipped into to evade arrest? And when was a hunt launched, by the way, to catch him when Iftikhar himself contradictorily asserts that because of the provincial administration’s preoccupation with relief of the IDPs had “restrained us from his arrest”? Even his very contention of preoccupation with the IDPs is all fraught. The ANP-led administration, at best, showed itself an enumerator of the displaced, and that too of doubtful credentials. Not as a relief provider. On this score, it drew wholesale flak from all around for its unfeeling unconcern for the displaced. In fact, the Punjab government earned much appreciation for relief effort, not a patch which could this ANP-dominated administration muster, so dismal was its performance on this humanitarian front. It badly let down its own people who were cared for more by others. So Iftikhar has trotted out all excuses for not nabbing Sufi earlier, none of which can hold. His versions’ inconvincibility brings to the fore more intriguingly as to where and why was this devilish character ensconced and at whose behest. And this wears on a sinisterly mysterious airs, given the fact that ANP bigwigs were such staunch admirers of this demonstrably wicked man. So much so, they acted his stout apologists when he blurted out unacceptable rebellious refrains and struck patently anti-state postures. Intrinsically innocent and simple man they said he was when the old trickster has his track record replete with abominable wickedness. Yet the ANP bigwigs projected him as a man of peace and partner of peace. And when the people cried they were propping up a Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale in-the-making, they denounced the critics as the enemies of peace and of the people of Swat. And if they are now decrying him, there has to be a method to their madness. But if the Islamabad security establishment keeps sitting idly by, it will simply only be further shooting itself in the foot. For pretty lone, it has been maligned for allegedly having soft corner for Swati extremists, by the ANP hierarchy, most of all. This establishment, for its own credibility, has to bust this contrivance once and for all. It must get actively involved in investigating this cunning Sufi, at least to hold him to account for the murder of its four personnel, including an army captain, at his orders. People want to know the truth about him. But this truth will surely not be told from Peshawar; it will have to be found out by Islamabad and Rawalpindi.