The debate: Are Taliban attacks sign of strength or desperation? | india | Hindustan Times
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The debate: Are Taliban attacks sign of strength or desperation?

A former Pakistani bureaucrat who flirted with politics before turning into a full-time columnist raised a pertinent question in the face of the country’s second televised terrorist attack in less than a week.

india Updated: Oct 16, 2009 00:54 IST
Vinod Sharma

A former Pakistani bureaucrat who flirted with politics before turning into a full-time columnist raised a pertinent question in the face of the country’s second televised terrorist attack in less than a week. “Is it a demonstration of their strength or desperation?” asked Shafqat Mahmood.

Desperate indeed. The Taliban and their Al-Qaeda partners are on beating a retreat from Swat. But they haven’t been emasculated. Not yet. That could happen if the army, whose Rawalpindi headquarters was under audacious terrorist fire five days ahead of the Lahore siege, is able to sort them out in their citadel of South Waziristan bordering Afghanistan in the volatile northwest

The terrorist violence Pakistan witnessed over the past fortnight cannot but be linked to the army’s proposed thrust in the killer groups’ ruggedly hilly tribal hideouts.

Having failed to trigger an Indo-Pak conflict post-Mumbai that would have inevitably caused withdrawal of troops from the northwest for deployment on the eastern borders, they have ventured to realise the same goal by setting Punjab aflame.

“They’re aggressive as they fear being cornered in Waziristan,” argued Senator Javed Ashraf Qazi, a former chief of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) that reared or enabled these “human assets” for proxy wars in Jammu and Kashmir and Afghanistan.

He saw in simultaneous attacks on three Lahore-based police establishments the stamp of Tehrik-e-Taliban — Pakistan’s on-ground coalition with sectarian Sunni groupings whose origins could be traced to the Iran-Iraq war of 1980s.

Some of these outfits — the Deobandi Sipah-e-Sahaba and its offshoot Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — run seminaries in south Punjab. They use local contacts to escape detection while assembling logistics for their Taliban allies.

“In return, there is no dearth of funds, weapons and training facilities for them in Waziristan,” Qazi said in a commentary on Geo TV. He shared Urdu columnist Haroon Rasheed’s fears of attacks across Pakistan, notably Punjab, with the objective of “terrorising people and demoralising the security forces”.

Not that Taliban inspired saboteurs and human bombers are averse to wanton assaults — such as the one witnessed in
Peshawar’s Khyber Bazaar earlier this month.

But Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi have had a slew of targeted killings after a bomber blew up a police post outside the high-security Lahore high court in early 2008.

Thursday’s was the second attack on the police training academy and the Federal Investigating Agency’s (FIA) facilities in Lahore. The Naval War College was bombed a week ahead of the FIA in March 2008. The sensational attacks on the visiting Sri Lanka cricket team and the police academy came a year later — in March 2009 to be precise.

The Lahore siege and the hostage drama at Rawalpindi’s GHQ brought to the fore the lack of actionable intelligence and
apprehensions of terrorist moles, informants and sympathisers in institutions so vital to fighting terror. The issue isn’t debated in public forums in Pakistan. But the vulnerability of the security apparatus has raised global anxiety over the
safety of its nuclear arsenal. More so when leading analysts believe the country is in a state of war— halaat-e-jang.