With a more hardline leadership at the helm of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which has threatened revenge on security forces and the US, there is a sense of foreboding more than ever.
A lot has already been said on the death of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud whose vehicle was bombed by a US drone on November 1. A fresh controversy has erupted over the Jamat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hassan calling him a martyr drawing sharp reactions from the Pakistan armed forces which has demanded an unconditional apology.
Calling dead terrorists martyrs was an insult to the thousands of men killed in combat, the army felt. But Syed Munawar Hassan had already referred to him as a martyr in an earlier press conference and no one noticed. And before that another right wing leader had said Mehsud was a martyr because he fought the Americans and even a dog killed by the US would be considered a martyr.
The government too was vehement about the drone strike but did not go so far as to call Mehsud a martyr. Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said he condoled what happened to the peace process, in response to a question by a journalist on whether he condoled the TTP chief’s death. As some saner voices have pointed out, it is important to delink the peace process from the death of one leader, even if he was the man who is said to have agreed to the talks with the government.
The lack of transparency in the entire process has been questioned by the media and politicians. The interior minister has tried to fight off skepticism by repeatedly stating his government’s sincere efforts for seven weeks which had reached a point when three members were to fly out to meet Mehsud, which was not to be.
The question now is if the peace talks have any future at all given the new chief of the TTP, Fazlullah. Chaudhry Nisar said that as long as there are drone strikes, talks would not be possible and in fact they had broken down. In any case even if Mehsud had agreed to some form of peace, the question is what about the over 50 groups that constitute the TTP? And what would the talks be about? But the debate on what that dialogue would have achieved has been taken over by whether Mehsud is a martyr or not.
Pakistan is a victim of terror with over 40,000 victims including hundreds of armed forces who have died fighting militants, but it is also a victim of a situation of its own making in many ways. The latest killing of Naseeruddin Haqqani of the Haqqani Network in Bara Kahu last Sunday has raised many questions. Police are looking for an another al Qaeda operative from the area in connection with an arms cache which was recovered and the murder of some high profile public figures.
The capital city Islamabad with its beautiful ring of hills and organised sectors is no less a theatre of terror as it transpires. In August a Shia mosque was targeted by a suicide bomber who was killed by a guard but after that a huge stash of arms and ammunition was found in a vehicle in Barakahu area, within the Islamabad Capital Territory. The owner of the vehicle was arrested and the police also raided the house of a Kashmiri family, the Gilanis, in Tarnol and arrested the teenaged nephew of Dukhtaraan-e-Millat founder-chairperson Syed Asiya Andrabi.
While the government is silent on Haqqani’s killing, the TTP believes it was carried out by security agencies. Mehsud was killed in a tribal area, but Haqqani was targeted in the capital. A retired army officer said this was a huge embarrassment to the government.
Comparisons are already being drawn to the US raid in Abbottabad which killed Osama Bin Laden. Again a suicide bomber was arrested from Tarnol area a day before the tenth day of Muharram. Both the Bara Kahu and Tarnol areas are the developing parts of Islamabad which does not have neat well tended sectors like the main city. The urban sprawl has spilled onto these outskirts which are controlled by the land mafia and criminal elements.
The government has been vociferous about the US drone strike killing Mehsud, saying it has sabotaged the peace talks with the Pakistan Taliban. However on the killing of Naseeruddin Haqqani there seems to be an 'official' silence. The two Gilani brothers whose whereabouts are unknown have links with the al Qaeda and this has been confirmed by the police who claim it is still looking for them. These are murky goings on in the capital capped by Haqqani’s killing.
Meanwhile, the peace talks with the TTP look remote and the government has chosen to blame the continuing drone strikes for the failure of talks. The All Parties Conference endorsed the dialogue with the Taliban in September but two months later, things are back to square one. With a more hardline leadership at the helm of the TTP which has threatened revenge on the security forces and the US, there is a sense of foreboding more than ever.