The chief minister Punjab needs to be reminded of the fate of JUI. People in the NWFP rejected that party because of its relations with the Taliban, and history can also repeat itself in Punjab
Over 12 terror attacks in less than a year, hundreds killed, including women, children and men. Thousands traumatised and billions lost in property. This is what is happening to the city of Lahore, once known as the centre of intellect and culture.
What is the chief minister doing about it? He delivered a speech. As usual it started with Musharraf, uncomfortably close to “Shuru karta hoon saath naam Allah ke…”. Almost blasphemous. This repetition of the start is boring now, but he continues the speeches in the same manner. Yes, he also sings sometimes. I have no problem with his singing, but what about governance?
This time it is a very serious matter. Lives and property of innocent people have been lost and the chief minister must do something. Only a song will not do now. Realising this, he decided to deliver a ‘speech’ about terrorism, and that speech took the cake. He requested his ‘friendly’ terrorists to spare Punjab because the PML-N had something in common with them. Rarely had he been noticed as much as he was noticed this time. Explanations followed, but these explained nothing. Everyone, including parliamentarians, journalists, government functionaries, and the general public tried to figure out the meaning of this request. Did he mean to suggest that the terrorists should spare Punjab and try Balochistan? Or Sindh or, for convenience of proximity to the Punjabi Taliban, try the capital Islamabad?
His cronies, and he himself, stated that he had been misunderstood. That is his assessment of the intelligence of the people who elected him. Jokes apart, the matter is too serious and the danger is too close to Lahore. The terror epicentre is at Muridke.
In fact the ‘chief minister’ made a very telling statement, and it needs to be understood in a historical perspective. In 2004, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) stationed in Afghanistan completed its planned intervention and operational strategy by landing in Kunar province of Afghanistan. About that time, the terror collaborators, the Taliban, al Qaeda, the Punjabi Taliban, Uzbeks, Chechens and others decided to move their headquarters away from Afghanistan, i.e. to Miranshah. They already had a 100 kanal establishment in Miranshah under Haqqani’s management and duly supported by Osama. The operational strategy was to attack Afghanistan from North Waziristan, and Pakistan from South Waziristan.
A high-tech training centre was set up in Peochar valley. Three caves, as long as 500 metres, were fitted for medical treatment, storage of food and armaments, etc. Peochar was tucked away in high mountains and did not even appear on the maps of Swat, so it was an ideal location for this clandestine activity. Terrorists were recruited, trained and tasked to perform acts of terrorism, which are now known to all. There were definite training programmes imparted in Arabic and suicide motivations in Pashto. Some people have even heard the actual recordings. The terror grew but the provincial government in NWFP turned a blind eye. It used its contact with the Taliban as leverage to blackmail the Centre. It is said to have even received a share of the terrorists’ funding. A close relative of the chief minister of Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam’s (JUI) government was killed in a dispute over the distribution of money. The provincial government of NWFP resisted army action under the constitutional clause that prohibits army action without the request of the provincial government.
Army presence without the authority to fire back was ineffective and caused heavy loss of lives of the army officers and men. Terrorists attacked them at will. Thousands of families went through the horror of death and destruction. It was only after the elections that the JUI was rejected by the voters and the Awami National Party (ANP) government took over. The ANP government cooperated with the Centre and the successful Operations Rah-e-Rast and Rah-e-Nijat flushed out terrorists.
History is now repeating itself in the province of Punjab. The terror epicentre has shifted to Punjab. Muridke is next door, and there are other centres as well. Like the JUI, the PML-N government is soft on Taliban and Co. It has vested interests, which are well known. They are alleged to have received huge amounts to pass the bill in the national assembly to become the Amirul Momineen and practically hand over the country to the Taliban/al Qaeda mindset. The chief minister Punjab won an election with the support of the banned terrorist outfits.
The PML-N leadership has never come out with clear condemnation of the Taliban. Their statements and approach are ominously similar to those of the JUI. They talk of negotiated settlements with the terrorists as the JUI did. The Punjab law minister moves around openly with leaders of the banned outfits and, to crown it all, the chief minister requests the terrorists to make a ‘friendly’ gesture of sparing Punjab! What about the rest of the country? Not concerned.
The chief minister Punjab needs to be reminded of the fate of JUI. People in the NWFP rejected that party because of its relations with the Taliban, and history can also repeat itself in Punjab. The chief minister has had two years in command with no real achievement made in Punjab. The public is not interested in score-settling between the Sharifs and Musharraf. Nobody is impressed by their accusing his ‘dictatorship’. The Sharifs happily worked with the worst dictator of all times. Therefore, it is time to pay attention to the life, welfare and security needed by the people of Pakistan, and Punjab. Otherwise time will run out. Time does not wait for anyone.
Mr CM, you had a good stint the first time. Can you cope with the realities of today?
Naeem Tahir has been associated with performing arts for over 40 years. He was the Chief Executive/Director General of Pakistan’s apex cultural organisation, the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org