A car stuffed with 150kg of explosive material has been blown up with remote control in a busy bazaar of Peshawar, killing over a hundred innocent citizens and injuring over two hundred. This is the big escalation that should convince the nay-sayers in the war against terrorism in Pakistan. The enemy has clearly defined himself and cannot be interpreted as a “wronged party” whose cause must be “understood” as a part of the process of removing the “roots” of terrorism.
It is too late for that kind of diagnosis. Now it is the survival of Pakistan which is at stake and the lives of the women and children of the NWFP which have to be answered for. The NWFP government has understood what the killers are trying to do. It says, “We may all die in the process but we will not stop fighting the terrorists”. This statement comes from a mind that knows that the war against terrorism has gone beyond the point where “talks” could bring peace. This is the attitude which must prevail in Pakistan so that the country can stand united against the Taliban and their foreign killers.
The terrorists have now turned to killing common people gathered in markets and other public places. This was the second such “blind” attack in Peshawar telling us that now the war is no longer tied to any ideology but is a war to the end. The new strategy has been embraced because the post-Baitullah action from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has not been too effective. There are signs of failure written all over the attacks suffered by Pakistan. In these cases the TTP “success” was limited to creating fright; and in most cases the terrorists have been traced with remarkable ease.
TTP’s new leader Hakimullah has always been reputed to be less scrupulous in his thinking than his predecessor Baitullah. His approach has become more unscrupulous after the scattering of the TTP and the arrest of a large number of second-echelon Taliban leaders. He is reckless and unmindful of the unpopularity the TTP will earn among the people. The new development — as in the case of the GHQ attack — is that intelligence against the elements that assist the TTP has improved. The attacks against the FIA headquarters and the two police centres in Lahore were of weak intent and were thwarted in their objective by the response of the police.
Action by the Pakistan Army has helped in strengthening the resolve of the common man to endure the hardship of war against the Taliban. Where it has operated, local populations have formed their own private militias and begun to hunt elements that killed their women and children. Once intimidated by warlords in Khyber and Malakand, they are now willing to defend the state if the state is willing to fight back. The “normalisation” of the Swat-Malakand region, once predicted to be of long haul, has taken place rapidly because of the support of the people who were subjected to the cruelty of the utopia that people like Sufi Muhammad had promised them over the past quarter century.
The war is going well in South Waziristan but the impression it makes in the rest of the country is mixed because of the lack of unity over the war among our politicians. They are in fact divided over matters other than war and treat war against terrorism as a kind of distraction. Sitting in parliament, the political parties have given the go-ahead to the war against terrorism but continue to differ over its details. The two mainstream parties are locked in a battle for another kind of survival. The PMLN says it supports the war against terrorism but differs in detail when it pleads for a focus on the “root cause”. The truth is that it is already too late to look for the “root cause”.
The root cause of war is in fact clear and present: the terrorists are killing our women and children. They are damaging our economy by scaring away domestic and international investment. They want Pakistan to collapse into a “state of nature” to serve them as the hub of their global terror. Pakistan has to fight them and see to it that the international community is lined up behind it with every kind of support and sympathy.