After the Quetta carnage

AFRASYAB KHATTAKLast Monday Quetta saw yet another horrendous bloodbath. This time round the brunt of terrorist attack was borne by the lawyers community of Balochistan although some non-lawyers also lost their lives as they happened to be around the hospital where members of legal fraternity were attacked.

The Hazara community, mostly comprising of Shi’a Muslims, has been attacked again and again in Quetta and is facing mass killings. But the carefully planned two parts of the fresh terrorist attack had its savage focus on the lawyers.

When the dangerously sophisticated weapon built in suicide jacket tears numerous human bodies apart it is not possible to count the exact number of dead bodies but the number of casualties did cross one hundred out of which 61 to 62 were lawyers.
A big number of families and wider communities are devastated because they have lost their near and dear ones.

Balochistan’s legal fraternity that has been very vocal and active in raising issues like enforced disappearances and political/economic deprivation of Balochistan has been fundamentally shattered by the loss.
Since absolute majority of the lawyers murdered in Quetta blast came from the Pashtun belt the incident can’t be seen in isolation from the bigger picture.
During the last decade and a half hundreds of important tribal leaders of FATA Pashtuns were killed by terrorists as the state looked on.
About one thousand political activists of Pashtun nationalist movement have been killed in Pakhtunkhwa and other areas in Pakistan and now the back of Pashtun intelligentsia has been broken in Quetta.
Significantly the culprits haven’t been brought to book in this wide spread killings.
How can one deny the pattern?

The Quetta carnage has been definitely shocking for the people as its graphic details emerged in media, but it was hardly surprising.
Opposition political parties and serious analysts had been constantly warning about grave consequences of the rolling back of anti-terrorist campaign since mid-2015.
Most important points out of the 20 points of National Action Plan (NAP) adopted by an All Parties Conference in December 2014 after APS massacre in Peshawar remain unimplemented due to lack of political will on part of the state.

They included points such as reforming religious seminaries, disallowing proscribed organisations to function under new names, taking action against strongholds of extremism and terrorism in Punjab, rehabilitating Pashtun IDPs and mainstreaming FATA.

NAP was adopted under mounting internal and international pressure in the aftermath of APS terrorist attack but the state failed to jettison the “non-state actors” that it has been using as foreign policy and national security policy instruments from the Cold War days.
For Afghan Taliban, JuD, JeM and many other militant outfits it was not only business as usual but in some cases they publicly became more active.

For example unlike Mulla Omar who was chosen as ‘Ameer’ (the leader) by Taliban in Kandahar, Afghanistan , two of his successors were chosen by Taliban gatherings held near Quetta.
Mulla Mansour, the late Amir of Afghan Taliban, was taken out by a US drone strike in Balochistan.
He was carrying a Pakistani passport and ID card.
This is hardly surprising as Mr. Sartaj Aziz, advisor to PM Nawaz Sharif on foreign policy has publicly conceded that not only is the Afghan Taliban leadership in Pakistan but also the fact that they are “enjoying certain facilities”.
JuD which is basically a Punjabi outfit has spread its organisational tentacles through out Pakistan, particularly in smaller provinces to counter the local nationalist movements apart from championing the cause of Kashmir.
It is pretty simple.
While carrying this baggage, how can the state implement any consistent anti-terrorist policy?

The same has also become clear from the state reaction to the Quetta carnage at the highest level.
It was declared in no uncertain terms that the attack is a conspiracy for subverting CPEC.
Such obfuscations not only trivialise the death of so may and loss of the cream of Pashtun and Baloch intelligentsia but also reflects the muddled approach towards meeting the challenge of terrorism.
Al Qaida, Taliban and other terrorist networks came into being far before even the very idea of CPEC was conceived.
Extremist ideologies such as Salfism and Takfirism that inspire and inform religious extremism and terrorism were mainstreamed during the Cold War and have yet to be fully and honestly confronted by states in Muslim countries.
But how can Pakistan do that if she supports Taliban rule in Afghanistan? The Quetta massacre was also attributed to the activities of Indian and Afghan intelligence agencies.
In view of the hostile relations that Pakistan has with her eastern and western neighbours it is quite possible that secret agencies of these countries are working for harming Pakistan.
But their work is made easier by the bankrupt policies of the Pakistani state towards the so called non-state militants.
It shouldn’t be difficult for the hostile foreign intelligence agencies to find and use rogue elements in so many networks created and tolerated in Pakistan.

It is sad to see the growing irrelevance of Parliament in the situation unfolding in the aftermath of Quetta carnage.
When some important parliamentarians and political leaders from Balochistan dubbed the terrorist attack in Quetta a security lapse and demanded from the Prime Minister to make the heads of the security institutions accountable they were viciously attacked from many sides, including important members of cabinet.
So the moral of the story is that parliamentarians, particularly of the non-Punjabi origins, have no right to criticise security agencies of the country on the floor of the house even over their worst failures.
Welcome to controlled democracy.

As if that was not enough the high level meetings after the Quetta tragedy decided to appoint monitoring committees to oversee the “implementation of NAP”.
These committees will be constituted from different government departments and agencies.
Not even any pretense of parliamentary oversight.
Parliament is handy as a factory for producing draconian laws (law for controlling cyber crime is the latest example) but it is certainly not a forum for formulating policies or overseeing their implementation.

So far nothing seems to have changed in terms of policy of good and bad Taliban.
Civilian facade of the security state is too weak to assert itself.
For at least the time being it is going to be more of the same unless some miracle happens.

Writer: Afrasiab Khattak

The writer is a regular contributor to THE PASHTUN TIMES. He is a retired senator and a leader of Awami National Party (ANP). He tweets    @a_siab 

THE PASHTUN TIMES

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