Another suicide strike
Saturday, November 08, 2008
After a period of relative quiet, the suicide bombers have struck again. This time, the target was another ‘jirga’ gathering in Bajaur, where tribal elders, after a meeting with the administration, were staging a meeting to discuss forming a ‘lashkar’ against militants. At least 20 people are reported to have died in an attack that the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have claimed responsibility for. The tactics, it is clear, are unchanged. The purpose is to dissuade tribesmen from building a front against the militants. We have seen similar, dastardly attacks before – in Bajaur and in other tribal areas.
Against the bloody background of this new attack, the news that a close aide of TTP leader Baitullah Mehsud has been freed in exchange for 10 security personnel is disquieting. It seems that even now, authorities are willing to strike deals with proven killers. Whereas one can understand the desire to rescue trapped military men, the fact is that we are dealing with a ruthless force. To combat them, the methods will need to be just as ruthless and just as unflinching. We have seen over the past years that such attempts at dialogue and deal-making with militants simply do not work. The resolve to go in against them with full force needs to be steadfast and backed by complete commitment at every level.
What is encouraging is the fact that tribal people have, despite the suicide attacks staged to dissuade them, carried on with their determined bid to drive militants out of their areas. In this they are said to be backed almost everywhere by local people. In this context, the efforts of the militants appear increasingly desperate. They have indeed already been forced out of some areas of Dir and of the tribal agencies. What also seems evident is that the formation of such anti-militant ‘lashkars’ will continue. Each new attack on tribesmen, rather than dissuading them, acts to fuel new anger against the elements behind the bombings and a new determination to crush them. In recent days, several edicts against suicide attacks by clerical leaders help to strengthen the resolve. What authorities must do is ensure that tribesmen have full support in their effort to eradicate militants. At the same time, there must also now be an attempt to strike at the core of organizations such as the TTP. The operation staged in Bajaur and elsewhere has already weakened them, paving the way for such a new offensive. It is hard to believe men like Baitullah Mehsud or his closest aides still cannot be tracked down. This is all the more true given that our agencies have been provided state-of-the-art equipment by the US and other allies. The effort to hunt down top militants needs to be stepped up as a move towards disbanding them and hampering their ability to kill innocent people, as they did most recently at the tribal meeting in Bajaur. (The News)