Links in the same chain of terror


The TTP’s tactics are Islamic militants’ trademark in other countries too

The terrorist activity engulfing Pakistan is by no means an isolated phenomenon peculiar to us alone. It would be the height of ignorance to characterize the militants’ inhuman acts that include killing innocent men, women and children as a reaction to Pakistan’s flawed policy of supporting the war on terror. What the militants are doing is to dismantle the state and to replace it with a rogue state that allows them to launch attacks on other countries. The TTP has never made a secret of its agenda.

It wants to enforce through use of arms what it can never achieve through the power of the vote. Its peculiar version of the Islamic system in Pakistan is unacceptable to the common man. No concessions can stop the terrorists from continuing to unleash this dance of death across the country. They terrorists have a well thought out strategy: to break the will of the people and coerce the state into submission.

One needs only to analyse the three major attacks this month in two other countries as well as Pakistan to find the commonalities.

On September 19, Boko Haram, an Islamic militant network shot dead at least 87 innocent people in one fell swoop in Borno, Nigeria. Disguised in military uniforms, the militants set up checkpoints outside the town of Benisheik and shot dead those trying to flee. Boko Haram, which wants to create an Islamic state across Nigeria, has waged a deadly insurgency since 2009. It has killed hundreds of peaceful civilians, police and army personnel in the last four years.

The militant group has no excuse for the attacks. Nigeria had nothing to do with the American war on terror, nor there were any drone strikes conducted on the Nigerian territory.

On Saturday Al Shabaab Islamic militants from Somalia crossed into Kenya’s capital Nairobi. Here they forced entry into an upscale shopping mall, shooting right and left, and took scores of people hostage. This was a rerun of the Mumbai terrorist attacks in 2008. By Tuesday when the five terrorists were finally shot down they had killed 67 innocent people, Kenyan as well as visitors from other countries.

On Sunday the all too familiar suicide bombers attacked All Saints Church in Peshawar, killing at least 83 worshippers. Earlier on September 15, the Swat Taliban – an affiliate of the TTP – killed Swat GOC Maj Gen Sanaullah Khan, along with a lieutenant colonel and another soldier in the Upper Dir district. The general was returning from an outpost near the Afghan border.

Now a little on the background of Boko Haram and Al Shabab and their resemblance with the TTP, making it evident that all three have the same objectives and employ the similar tactics. Going through their activities gives one a sense of déjà vu.

Jamā’a Ahl al-Sunnah li-Da’wa wa al-Jihād, is better known by its Hausa name Boko Haram, which means “Western education is sinful”. Boko Haram is a militant organisation based in the northeast of Nigeria founded by Mohammed Yusuf in 2001. The network seeks to overthrow the government by force to establish sharia law in the country. The militant group is opposed non-Sharia legal systems, and whatever it considers ‘Westernization’. Its sweep of don’ts is rather: starting from the sartorial, wearing of shirts and trousers, to modern education, elections and democracy it is opposed to everything under the sun. And what it doesn’t approve must not happen or else…

The group has no tolerance for religious or cultural diversity. One of its many targets is religious minorities in northeast Nigeria, Christians being the topmost on the elimination roster. The group has launched several attacks on the minority community besides targeting its churches. On June 1, 12 church goers were killed in Bauchi. Later on in the same month suicide attacks by the militant network killed several Christians in a number of churches in the Kaduna region.

Muslim clerics differing with Boko Haram’s use of violence have also been killed. This would remind some of the suicide attack on Dr Sarfraz Naeemi and the killing of several other ulema by the TTP for preaching moderation. The Nigerian militant group has attacked mosques where the prayer leaders dared to condemn their activities. On August 12 it gunned down 44 people who they perceived as vigilantes praying at a mosque in Konduga town in northeast Nigeria.

Like other Islamic militant groups Boko Haram targets the state. It has attacked army and police personnel and their HQs. In June 2011, the group bombed Nigerian police HQs in Abuja. In February last year its suicide bombers demolished army HQs in Kaduna.

What drives this group is hatred. It is alien to debate and discussion and depends on the gun as the sole arbiter to settle differences. This explains its antipathy to democracy.

The Harkat Shabaab al Mujahidin, widely known as Al Shabaab, or youth, was originally the militant wing of the Somali al-Ittihad al-Islami, one of the many extremist groups formed in the country in the 1980s and 1990s. It became prominent as a member of the resistance to the Ethiopian invasion of the country.

The rise of Al Shabaab is due to the instability that has plagued Somalia during the last three decades and resulted among other things to an invasion by Ethiopia. After coming under Al Qaeda’s influence, the Al Shabaab became committed to global jihadism. It eschews peaceful means to achieve power, opposes democracy and modernity. Al Shabaab is the only self-proclaimed branch of Al-Qaeda to have gained acceptance and praise from Ayman al-Zawahiri.

A common ideology unites the TTP, Boko Haram and Al Shabaab. The last two came into existence in societies far less exposed to modern influences and with weaker institutions of state compared to Pakistan. Pakistan is much more socially advanced than Northern Nigeria or Somalia. Educated women have played a part in Pakistan’s politics since the inception of the country. Pakistan was the first Muslim country to install a women prime minister in office in the late 1980s. They have acted as ambassadors, heads of important state institutions and are now in the army and air force. There are tens of thousands of professional women in the country.

Pakistan inherited elected local bodies and assemblies from the British period. Here even religious parties take part in elections. Political parties headed by leaders with western education have defeated parties led by clerics.

The extremist outfits in Pakistan have had no independent growth. They were assembled together by the agencies of the state to achieve political objectives, such as an unrealistic yen for strategic depth in Afghanistan being one and launching the extremist outfits to fight a proxy war in Kashmir another. In between the Salafist Saudis, consumed by their own vendetta tussle with Shia Iran, helped create monsters of their own that are playing havoc with our peace.

No attempt at appeasing the TTP will ever succeed. It would be interpreted by the militants as a sign of the weakness of the state. The TTP wants a ceasefire to sneak into Swat, Dir, Tirah and other agencies regained after great human and material sacrifice. They want to reestablish a foothold in the agencies to again start destroying schools, bridges, closing down music and video shops, killing and hanging the opponents’ bodies on the trees. That is not to mention using the terrain as a springboard to spread their vicious and deadly tentacles across the country.

The writer is a political analyst and a former academic.


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