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Saturday, June 05, 2010
We have had terrorist attacks on the police, the army, the ISI, the FIA, the FC and hotels lodging foreigners, because they are perceived to be helping the US. Our history is replete with incidents of sectarian violence. But where does the attack on the Ahmedi community come from?
The Ahmadis are neither associated with the US nor are they partners on either side of the sectarian divide. What this attack indicates is the availability of spare “troops” and reserves with the terrorist forces which can now afford to target enemies lower down in their priority list. Could it be the Hindus or the Christians next? Could it be the businessmen because they are rich? Could it be the cinemagoers because, somehow, they don’t conform to the moral values of the terrorists?
The disconcerting part of the equation is the abundant availability of the suicide bombers. While you need resources to raise regular forces, for raising suicide bombers you need a lack of resources. The deprived and the downtrodden ones, some having been groomed at madressahs, need only intelligent exploitation of any cause–be it the Afghan invasion, the tribal areas’ invasion, the drone attacks, the Lal Masjid operation–to convert a 14-year-old from a playful child into a live bomb. And there is no shortage of ‘raw material’ for this purpose in the country.
In the short term, the most effective defence against the surge in terrorism can be the police. But in our case, the police force doesn’t seem to play its role despite the disproportionate increase in the recent past, in the allocation of resources to them, through a substantial, across-the-board salary increase and provision of latest equipment. What is lacking is not the quantity but the quality. While the elite squads are raised and trained in the commando mode, their performance leaves much to be desired. The dancing and firing in the air at the end of a mission to celebrate victory is more in the mode of having won a village kabaddi match than a style befitting a commando.
We saw similar scenes in the Munawan incident. From the TV images, the body language of the elite force while it was approaching the scene of the incident was casual and non-professional. Therefore, the results are also questionable. While the TV cameras were able to spot terrorists on rooftops, there were no sharp shooters to take them on. Similarly, scores of victims died in Lahore’s Ahmedi carnage due to excessive bleeding from gunshot wounds, but our commandos could not do anything to help them. All this points to the need for better training of the elite forces.
Because the Ahmedis neither have the political clout nor the street strength, the Lahore carnage will be in the news for a few days. At best, the terrorists arrested at the crime scene will be prosecuted, but there will be no thrust for the prosecution of the handlers. If a person involved in such attacks says that he has been trained in Waziristan, there will be no effort to trace his trainers or the masterminds on the basis of the argument that this is a national issue and is being sorted out by the army.
The measures taken by the government to curb terrorism are short-term and they won’t rid us of the menace. The government needs to focus on tackling the root causes of this problem. If this nosedive is to be prevented, there are three main areas that need immediate attention. The first one is the foreign policy, second, the education system and third, the economy. We need to discuss with the US a rethink of the way forward, for the sake of the survival of Pakistan, which should serve the US interest in the long run. As far as the education system is concerned, apart from merging and bringing closer the various streams of education, we need to impose government’s writ in this sector. No state can allow uncontrolled teaching and spread of a particular ideology and the thinking and training and survive as a state. Lastly we need to work on the betterment of our economy.
Without sorting out these basic issues, we will continue to live on panadols, until one day we discover that the disease has destroyed the body structure of the state.
The writer is a former federal secretary. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org