Source Daily Times:
In wars, the death of a leader means half the war is won. But, interestingly enough, in the anti-terror war in this region, the leadership is intact despite the use of all air, ground and intelligence resources against them
A latest and somewhat stunning report carried by the British media says the dreaded Waziristan-based Taliban leader Hakeemullah Mehsud is alive. The information is provided by the customary ‘unnamed sources’ in the ‘intelligence apparatus’ of Pakistan. It was the same ‘unnamed intelligence sources’ quoted by all and sundry nearly more than three moths ago confirming the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud in a predator strike carried out by an unmanned US spy plane in mid-January. Before the surfacing of reports about Hakeemullah’s death, questions were raised from time to time, both by the public and in the media, about the whereabouts of another militant leader Fazlullah, the name behind the worst-ever violence and unrest unleashed in Swat over the past more than two years.
The report about Hakeemullah being alive appeared at a time when the government and the security forces are pushing the displaced people from Waziristan, presently living in camps or with relatives and friends in Bannu, DI Khan, Tank or other cities, to return to their areas and help the security forces in the restoration of peace. How can the cowed and crestfallen people of Waziristan, who had tasted the bitter fruits of militancy on their land over the past few years, opt to return to their areas when the top man responsible for their miseries is still alive and may appear at any moment to browbeat the innocent tribesmen all over again?
In wars, the death of a leader means half the war is won. But, interestingly enough, in the anti-terror war in this region, the leadership is intact despite the use of all air, ground and intelligence resources against the militant and terrorist outfits since late 2001.
Al Qaeda top leader Osama bin Ladin, believed to be the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks and the main force behind the organisation’s operatives, is yet to be declared dead. His second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is still alive and kicking. Leader of the Afghan Taliban and the one-time Amirul Momineen Mullah Muhammad Omar is still alive and issues directions to his fighters and supporters from undisclosed locations. Besides, he is also in touch with his shura members and taking key decisions while some fresh reports suggested that his Taliban had established shadow governments in several Afghan districts and provinces in the backdrop of the US plan to start withdrawal of troops from the country next year.
Coming to the Taliban on the Pakistan side, one can easily assume that Fazlullah of Swat is alive and warning the locals of his return to the valley. Almost all Fazlullah’s key aides are also unscathed with at least four of them in government custody now. Leader of the Taliban in Bajaur, one time deputy leader of TTP, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, is still alive, while the Taliban leader in Mohmand Abdul Wali alias Omar Khalid is also there. In the same token, leaders like Mangal Bagh in Bara and Tariq Afridi in Darra Adam Khel are also alive and kicking.
It is for this reason that the Taliban are gaining strength with each passing month despite the military operations while only common citizens are becoming the fuel of this anti-terror war being waged in the tribal areas and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. To avert the Taliban attacks, the security measures in place in cities, particularly in Islamabad and Peshawar, appear as if the government had gone on the defensive and the Taliban are on the offensive, while in fact, the case should be the opposite.
This can be judged from the recent visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to Peshawar, who inaugurated the construction of 21 schools destroyed by the Taliban in Swat with the help of models of the schools at the fortified Governor’s House. Still, the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are thankful to Zardari for his visit as other leaders, like Nawaz Sharif of PML-N and Shujaat Hussain of PML-Q, never ventured to step in there to show sympathy with the people being devastated by terrorist attacks.
Besides, the governor and chief minister of NWFP are restricted to their official residences while the leadership of the ruling Awami National Party (ANP) has now shifted its centre to Islamabad from Peshawar, fearing terrorist attacks. However, the ANP has a reason for that: its president Asfandyar Wali Khan escaped a suicide attack at his house on October 2, 2009; its provincial president Afrasiab Khattak also escaped a similar attack during a political meeting (February 2008); senior minister Bashir Bilour has so far survived four attempts on his life; ANP’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly member Alamzeb Khan was killed in a bomb attack in Peshawar on February 11, 2009; another ANP MPA Shamsher Ali Khan was killed in a suicide attack at his house in Swat on December 1, 2009; brother of NWFP Minister for Forests Wajid Ali Khan was shot dead in Mingora the same year while a brother and two nephews of another ANP MPA Waqar Khan were brutally murdered inside their house in Swat before the launch of the final stage of the operation there.
All these incidents, along with many others, happened despite claims of ‘successful action’ against the militants and the victories against them. Judging from the past few years, it seems the situation would remain unchanged unless the top militant leadership is dismantled and effectively removed from the scene.