Bleeding Lahore and confused anti-terrorism policies


 As these lines were being written on the evening of February 13, Lahore, the heart of Pakistan, suffered a suicide bombing that left 13 persons, including five police officials, dead and 83 injured. The bomber exploded himself near police officials who were engaged in negotiations with representatives of a pharmaceutical and medicine firm protesting against the government’s drug policy. Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan’s splinter Jamaatul Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, condemning the attack, claimed, “Our security forces have broken the terrorists’ backbone.” This is not a shocking or intriguing statement. Now, Pakistanis are habitual to such claims after every incident of terror. Sometimes these words are uttered by political icons and sometimes by military leaders. The fact remains that the terror groups mark their presence repeatedly with such attacks even with a broken backbone.

The rulers and policy makers look confused. At this critical time, when they are supposed to formulate clear and unambiguous policies to fight terror groups, Punjab’s rulers are making policies to stop basant (a festival to welcome spring with kite-flying), which is already banned. They want a crackdown against those who want to exchange roses to celebrate Valentine’s Day. How confusing is that? The rulers don’t want to see a rainbow of kites in the sky because their strings may cut the throats of motorcyclists.

Kite flying has been banned in Punjab for the past eight years after increasing incidents of throat-cutting by strings. So policymakers formulated a policy and managed to bring kite-flying to a halt.

But the rulers cannot stop the terror groups from wreaking havoc in Pakistan because they make vague policies followed by poor implementation. They say that they will not differentiate between good and bad Taliban and will eliminate them. Instead, both still exist.

They say that the supporter of terror groups will be brought to task. Instead fathers of terror groups get official protocols and security.  Isn’t it confusing?

Now some of the self-styled analysts and experts have started playing a new tune. They want the banned religious and terror groups to be included in the mainstream politics. Are these groups not in mainstream politics already, directly or indirectly?

Historically speaking, whenever these groups or their supporters are given space in mainstream politics, they try to grab more space and impose their agenda. The history of Pakistan is filled with examples in which elected governments were blackmailed by the extremist leaders and groups when they included them in policy making.

Even if these groups are pacified or they start believing in democracy and ballots, what about their splinters? A simple example of this is Harkatul Mujahideen, a banned terror group that was aligned to Al-Qaeda and Taliban. The group is almost peaceful with a new name, Ansarul Ummah, and is a component of the Pakistan Defence Council, an alliance of religious and political parties. But, the majority of people does not know that Omar Khalid Khurasani, chief of Jamaatul Ahrar, the most feared terror group at present in Pakistan, started his militancy as an operative of the HuM. Later, he joined TTP and formed his own group, known as the JuA. Bringing the militant groups to the mainstream politics will make no difference as groups like JuA and leaders like Khurasani will keep coming unless the state adopts a zero-tolerance policy against extremist groups.

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