Ambassador S. Azmat Hassan is a former Ambassador of Pakistan to Malaysia, Syria and Morocco and Deputy Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations. He is currently a Visiting Professor at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.
The recent suicide bombings in the heart of Pakistan’s cultural capital of Lahore demonstrate the continuing ability of the Tehrik-e-Taliban (TTP) to spread death, destruction and fear amongst soldiers and civilians alike.
While the TTP has lost ground to the army in Swat and South Waziristan, the latest retaliatory attacks show that it is far from being a spent force.
One of its leaders had recently boasted that the TTP possesses a cadre of 3000 suicide bombers. Whether this is an exaggeration or not, state authorities had better take serious notice.
Suicide bombing was invented by the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka in 1980’s. Like a virus it spread to the Middle East. The tactic of suicide bombing was further refined during the needless wars engaged in by the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their predecessor in Afghanistan, the former Soviet Union, had also tasted the sting of this tactic.
The number of countries which have fallen victim to suicide bombing is on the increase. This is because suicide bombing is a horribly effective tactic in the armory of extremism.
If a person has been indoctrinated to kill others at the cost of his own life for a cause he believes in, there is not much any law enforcement authority can do to ward off the ensuing damage.
Pakistan has been the foremost victim of suicide bombings in the past three years. First, the Soviets and then the United States ignited the flames of war in Afghanistan. It was inevitable that their repercussions would be felt in Pakistan. What Cambodia faced because of the Vietnam War is being replicated in Pakistan because of the conflict in Afghanistan.
Pakistan is both a recipient and an abettor of terror. The Afghan Taliban demonstrated that suicide attacks made the Karzai regime and its Western backers look weak and impotent. Like-minded groups bent on creating independent fiefdoms in Pakistan’s tribal areas have copied these tactics.
Pakistan’s shadowy security agencies have also utilized these indoctrinated persons to pursue their agenda in disputed Kashmir.
The Mumbai attack was allegedly masterminded by elements of one of these banned groups. If the chickens have come home to roost in Pakistan, then the blame has to be shared by those in authority in Pakistan who mollycoddled them in the past couple of decades.
It has been a classic instance of blowback. The Talibanization of certain areas of Pakistan — particularly in southern Punjab — has been the baneful result.
There is no immediate riposte to suicide attacks. The vast majority of the Pakistani public, across the board, is against such attacks. Surprisingly however, civil society has yet to mobilize visibly in a sustained fashion against this menace. Here civil society seems to be behind the curve.
Violent extremism respects neither frontiers nor religious scruples. Its main purpose is to gain power by spreading fear and chaos through indiscriminate violence. Innocent civilians bear the brunt of the losses.
Pakistani civil society will have to visibly rally around the government’s counterterrorism efforts. Political, financial and moral space has to be denied to such anti-state elements. The government also has to acknowledge its past mistakes and commit to not playing both sides.
Hopefully the resilient people of Pakistan will unite to rid themselves of this modern day scourge.
They can take comfort from the fate of European anarchists who terrorized Europe in the 19th and earlier 20th centuries — but were eventually eliminated.
– S. Azmat Hassan