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Back in the Driver’s Seat

Pakistan’s military retakes pivotal control, and the public does not seem to mind.

PAKISTAN-DEFENCE-SECURITY

Pakistan’s military is back in the driving seat. This time, not through a conventional coup d’etat, but through an amended constitution that enables military tribunals to try civilians accused of terrorism.

On Jan. 6, in a joint session, the Parliament amended the country’s constitution to establish military courts. The Islamist parties, opposed to the inclusion of the term “religious terrorism,” backed out at the last minute. But the major secular political parties, ostensibly committed to democratic rule, passed on the judicial powers to special military courts for a period of two years. This is a significant blow to the democratic transition that occurred after Gen. Musharraf’s ouster in 2008, when the country returned to civilian rule.

The unenviable history of democratic evolution in Pakistan is well known. The military directly governed for more than three decades, and in the periods of so-called civilian rule (such as the present one), the military retains control over security and foreign policy. Pakistan’s military is also synonymous with the nationalist identity and therefore shapes the political discourse as well.

The current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, assumed office in June 2013. In November, he appointed a new Army Chief, Gen. Raheel Sharif, thinking that he was consolidating civilian power. Sharif also pushed for the trial of former President Musharraf (who ousted Sharif in 1999) for violating the constitution by imposing emergency rule in November 2007.

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January 16th, 2015|History, Pakistan, Published in Foreign Policy, terrorism|0 Comments

Six ideas for Pakistan to defeat the Taliban

There’s a lot Pakistan could do to root out terrorism. But will it?

Raza Rumi3

 

It is being seen as a watershed moment in Pakistan, the December 16 massacre of 142 children and teachers in Peshawar. Pakistan’s civilian and military leadership has vowed to act against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. The first policy response was to lift the moratorium on the death penalty. Human rights campaigners say this may not be the appropriate response to the challenge that Pakistan faces. There are over 6,000 inmates on death row in Pakistani jails.

A committee of parliamentarians met on Friday to discuss the way forward. Earlier this year, Pakistan’s cabinet and the National Assembly endorsed an internal security policy that, among other measures, called for intelligence coordination, a special counter-terrorism force and steps to de-radicalise society. The policy has not been implemented because political turbulence since July has prevented the Nawaz Sharif government from focusing on policy decisions. Fearful that the Imran Khan-led political agitation has the backing of sections of the military-intelligence complex, Sharif has been busy just finding ways to survive.

After the December 16 massacre, however, the Pakistani public is asking for concrete action. It is looking to the government to deliver. Will it rise to the occasion? There are six key policy planks that the civilian government will have to decide on, and take the military on board for them to be implemented. Without a civil-military compact, such changes may not be possible. […]

What the Karachi airport attack says about the Pakistani Taliban

By Raza Rumi, Special for CNN

Security personnel guard the Jinnah International Airport in Karachi, Pakistan, on Tuesday, June 10, after gunmen targeted the Airport Security Forces academy nearby. Two days earlier, militants launched an attack in the cargo area of the airport. The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for <a href=[…]

June 10th, 2014|Extremism, Published in CNN, terrorism|1 Comment

Mullahs, mullahs everywhere

Raza Rumi

It is a test for the state and the political parties of Pakistan as to how they can deal with a narrative that is fast capturing political space as well as prime time on TV.

 

Mullahs, mullahs everywhere

Last week on a television show I had a chance to interact with Maulana Sami ul Haq while he was in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. This was the day when the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) had announced a month-long ceasefire (March 1). Maulana was ecstatic about the news and offered a bagful of platitudes on how important was the so-called ‘peace process’ and negotiating with the terrorists. When I asked him that despite the peace talks, outfits close to TTP had carried out dozens of attacks killing soldiers and civilians the Maulana’s mood changed. In a fit of anger he accused me of ‘sabotaging’ the process and before he could take the argument forward by calling me an agent of Hanood-Yahood, my guest – another Maulana – Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi intervened and rescued me from a live declaration of being an enemy of the peace.

The false and utterly bizarre packaging of accepting terrorists within our fold as ‘peace-agents’ has assumed a life of its own. Appeasement or terrorist outfits is turning into a mainstream political ideology. The right wing parties – bearded and non-bearded – are busy selling the merchandise that Pakistani state had earlier branded as means to bolster ‘national security’. Militant groups aiming to liberate Kashmir are legitimate, those planning to fight the imperial US and NATO are ‘good’ and the foreigners operating from Pakistani soil are ‘guests’ of proud Pakhtuns, we are told. Any divergence from these labels is akin to being unpatriotic, parroting the United States and feeding on dollars as the charismatic Imran Khan has said time and again. […]

March 14th, 2014|Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times, terrorism|2 Comments

New battle against old demons

Raza Rumi

After 30 years of self-defeating policies, the new National Internal Security Policy may be the right way to make a fresh start

 

New battle against old demons National Security Advisor Sartaj Aziz

 

Pakistanis should be grateful for small mercies. The federal cabinet finally approved the draft of the internal security policy that was pending for review since December 2013. This is some improvement from the earlier performance of civilian authorities and complete outsourcing of security question to the military. The approval does not suggest that the military has backed off and the civilians are fully in charge. In fact, reports suggest that the military leadership has proactively argued for a cleanup in North Waziristan Agency (NWA) and had advised the Prime Minister for not delaying the final putsch any further.

The National Internal Security Policy (NISP) has a detailed conceptual part that highlights the extent of damage that Pakistan has suffered during the last 12 years. While reporting on the victims of terror, the NISP notes that from 2001 to November 2013, 48,994 people were killed in the country including 5,272 personnel of the law-enforcement agencies. The attacks on security apparatus accelerated during 2011-2013 as 17,642 casualties including 2,114 security personnel took place during this time period. The NISP notes that with more than 600,000 strong personnel in 33 civilian and military security organizations provide adequate capacity to the Pakistani state to fight terrorism. The impact of terrorism has been calculated as losses worth $78 billion to Pakistan’s economy. Surprisingly, the draft also refers to the foreign policy priorities with respect to Afghanistan, Kashmir and India and limited civilian input in policy process. Governance failures also find a mention in the draft.

The democratic process in Pakistan has been a victim of terrorist narratives

Perhaps the most important feature of the NISP refers to the emphasis on the narratives – political and martial – which have increased the domestic support for terrorist outfits and mislead many a citizen in believing that terror tactics are justifiable at a certain level. This area has been largely unaddressed by Pakistan’s political parties and permanent state organs. While the PPP-led coalition tried to make some amends, it was often cowed down into acquiescence by militancy all around. In fact, the elections of 2013 took place under the threat of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) that decided which political groups had more space to campaign and contest. Certainly, the democratic process in Pakistan has also been a victim of terrorist narratives. […]

March 9th, 2014|Pakistan, Published in The Friday Times, terrorism|0 Comments

Osama Bin Laden is dead: what next for Pakistan?

The dramatic events of May 2, enacted in Pakistan’s small, sleepy town of Abbottabad have surely shaken the world. The global icon of al Qaeda — Osama bin Laden — has been ‘eliminated’ through a well-executed, covert operation. This was a major victory for charismatic US president Barack Obama especially given his dwindling popularity, and will help him survive in office, perhaps, for another term. It isunlikely that this development will lead to the end of global terrorism. While his death may have symbolic value, Osama was not in any case in charge of al Qaeda operations and hence the impact may not be much.

The most significant aspect of this game-changing event, perhaps, is the cutting of all ties between al Qaeda and sections of our security establishment. While Pakistan’s assistance in executing the operation against bin Laden’s hideout is being downplayed for political reasons, it should be obvious that all this couldn’t have happened without its active help. For all its front line status, the Pakistani state has not yet permitted the Americans to operate in the ‘settled’ areas, the way unmanned drones work in Fata. The recent hullabaloo over the strained Pakistan-America relationship has once again proved to be exaggerated: Stories were spun for domestic political consumption in both countries. […]

Lahore’s now the latest target of Taliban

Once again the terrorists have hit Lahore. But this time they have chosen the favourite target of the fundamentalists – the Ahmedis who were declared as non-Muslims in 1974. Two places of worship have been attacked and innocent people have died. This is unacceptable and outrageous. It means that the state policy of exclusion has […]

May 29th, 2010|human rights, Lahore, Pakistan, Religion, terrorism|0 Comments