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The PML-N government was not always soft on ASWJ-LeJ militant groups -by Ayesha Siddiqa

The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.
The writer is an independent social scientist and author of Military Inc.

LUBP Editor’s note: In the following article published in Express Tribune, Dr Siddiqa notes that the PML-N government was not always soft on ASWJ-SSP-LeJ and other Deobandi-Wahhabi militant groups. It had contested the ASWJ/SSP/LeJ network during the 1990s, but with little support from the establishment. Finally Sharifs were left unprotected by the establishment and were shown to be vulnerable to threats and violence by ASWJ-LeJ. Dr. Siddiqa also reports that a New York Times’ news item about religious extremists in Punjab was vehemently countered by a local English daily. This confirms that in addition to right-wing dominated Urdu media, fake liberals dominated English media too is subservient to the almighty security establishment. Of course, those “liberals” known for praising great administration of Chief Minister Shehbaz Sharif have remained, until so far, silent on newly appointed IG Balochistan Mr. Sukhera’s links with ASWJ-LeJ. Dr. Siddiqa reports that Mushtaq Sukhera was RPO Bahawalpur and vehemently denied a jihadi presence of LeJ-JeM in south Punjab. In contrast to vagueness and obfuscation by pro-establishment fake liberals, Dr Siddiqa clearly mentions Deobandi-Wahhabi identity of Takfiri terrorists responsible for terrorism in Pakistan. She also notes that it is “mainly the intent and planning that could get things going” against ASWJ-LeJ-JeM terrorists. Sadly, both elements are are missing in today’s Pakistan.

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Contextualising militancy in Punjab -by Ayesha Siddiqa

It is certainly a cruel statement to make but it seems that the killing of Hazara Shias and their subsequent protest has initiated a debate regarding sources of terrorism in the country. Although a popular argument is that the internal chaos and bloodletting are the work of outside powers, some questions are being raised about our own inefficiencies in dealing with extremist forces operating in the country. Two propositions are being forwarded. First, that the jihadis are indeed Zia’s children and of the generals that followed him. Second, that these jihadis may be the military’s creation but that it is now the political parties who have the dominant ownership.

To begin with the second line of thinking, a lot of fingers are being pointed at the Punjab government. There are reports of the party trying to work out an electoral deal with the political component of the SSP/LeJ for some seats in central and south Punjab. At this juncture, there seems little difference between the PML-N and the PTI as far as their support of militant groups is concerned. However, it is also important not to de-contextualise the entire debate.

The PML-N government was not always like this. It had contested the SSP/LeJ network during the 1990s, but with little support from the establishment. For instance, when Nawaz Sharif and his brother screamed their heads off about sectarian violence in Pakistan and Punjab, they were contradicted by the Foreign Office. The Sharif government of the 1990s also targeted the LeJ resulting in a botched terrorist attack on the then prime minister, Nawaz Sharif. The LeJ terrorist leader Riaz Basra also threatened them. This was a point when a combined intelligence and police operation could have helped but it didn’t happen. Moreover, the government was dismissed in 1999. There is certainly a possibility that the Sharifs got scared. More importantly, there was also the issue of being caught between the devil and the deep blue sea after they returned to Pakistan and power in 2008.

The Pakistan and Punjab of the 2000s was different in terms of its relationship with terror groups which were being neatly put to order, rearranged and regrouped. The number in Punjab fell from about 70 odd militant groups (small and large) in the 1990s to a few large ones. However, these were protected and had links with the agencies and continue to do so. The government in Punjab and the police were not authorised to question and challenge most of these groups. Police officers often complain of situations when they arrest terrorists who are later whisked away from police stations by other more powerful intelligence agencies. It was certainly not the PML-N that had allowed organisations like the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) to walk in and out of the Pakistan Air Force, whose officers were later involved in one of the assassination attempts on Pervez Musharraf. Interestingly, the JeM continues to be treated as a good friend and allowed to expand infrastructure. The logic for continued friendship is that the operation was conducted by splinter groups and not the mother organisation.

Moreover, at that point in time even the media was not too keen to hear about jihadis in Punjab. I remember in 2007-08 no one in the larger civil society was ready to hear about the problem in Punjab. In fact, when a New York Times journalist did a story about the problem, a local English daily went out of its way to counter the report and do several stories negating the presence of extremist elements in Punjab. In fact, Mushtaq Sukhera, the senior police officer, who has been dispatched to Quetta to fight LeJ, was then RPO Bahawalpur and vehemently denied a jihadi presence in south Punjab. He even claimed that the JeM madrassa on the main GT Road was ordered to stop any further construction. However, those orders, if there were any, were never carried out.

More than personal inefficiency, this was about the real powers continuing to support the JeM and other Deobandi and Ahle Hadith militant groups. It is indeed a fact that none of the main parties in power had any knowledge of Mumbai or any control or communication with the LeT or any of the other religious-militant groups. This was not their domain, especially not after the Mumbai attack.

The decade of the 2000s is also the period when a lot of the militant organisations were allowed to go underground, which meant spreading in society far and wide. They started building their social clout, which the intelligence agencies now believe can be capitalised in mainstreaming these organisations and thus taking them away from violence. It is definitely not any political government’s idea to bring the militants into politics as it goes against the logic of electoral politics. More parties mean more concessions and dividing the vote bank. Until now, supporters of all jihadi networks happily voted for one or the other party without burdening them with any consolidated demands. However, it is now that they are being made to think of forming their own political platform. Sadly, the mainstream political parties are happy to go along and do seat adjustment partly because of their inability to openly challenge Zia’s children. Such cowardice is not forgivable but it is essential to understand the context.

These jihadis will disappear the day their creators run out of uses for them. They were raised initially during the 1980s but integrated in the tactical planning, as indicated in one of the papers produced at GHQ, to play the role of additional division to fight India. Later, they were put to multiple uses. These will get costly with time especially if they are not needed after 2014. In any case, these are risky assets to maintain in a nuclear environment. Going by the splinter-group theory, what if they start an accidental war? Getting rid of them at this stage is not hugely difficult either. In Punjab and Sindh, where these are spreading rapidly, they could be removed through an intense intelligence and police operation. It is mainly the intent and planning that could get things going.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2013.

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Jehangir Hafsi

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  • PML-N shares a great deal in adding to the morbid haze. The PML-N does not fully own up to the war on terror. Nawaz Sharif condemns terrorism but falls short of fighting terrorist outfits. Indeed, his brother, the chief minister of the country’s largest province, is pedalling a provincial approach to tackle this nationwide and global terrorism. Rather than embracing the government’s fight against terrorism, he is struggling to keep it off his domain. The PML-N’s policy on the US is at best ambivalent, if not duplicitous. Publicly, it condemns the US policies, but privately, as shown by WikiLeaks, it encourages US engagement. One cannot say it is the fear factor or the ideological affinity that drives the PML-N away from owning up to the war on terror. But President Zardari thinks it is the ideological affinity, hence the epithet ‘Maulvi’ Nawaz Sharif.

  • Those who place PML-N in the dock without mentioning how PML-N was left unprotected by agencies are naive or dishonest.

    Compare Ayesha Siddiqa’s thesis http://criticalppp.com/archives/246891 with Najam Sethi’s thesis: http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta3/tft/article.php?issue=20130315&page=1 … See the difference! #ShiaGenocide

    In the same issue of TFT, Sethi/Rumi publish a soft-ball interview with head of ASWJ-LeJ Ahmed Lduhianvi Deobandi allowing him to freely spread hate speech:

    http://criticalppp.com/archives/251181

    ……..

    Compared Dr Siddiqa’s thesis in above post (holding army to account) with that of Najam Sethi (who holds PMLN to account)

    Editorial By Najam Sethi

    PML N in the dock

    Political Islam and national security policies are ravaging Pakistan. But neither the generals, who spawned this symbiotic process in the 1980s and nurtured it in the 1990s, nor the politicians, who exploited or condoned it for legitimizing themselves, have the will to turn back the tide. In consequence, the country is besieged by dozens of armed non-state ethnic, sectarian, jehadi, criminal, separatist and terrorist groups in one garb or another that have overrun law and order and plunged various communities into a blood bath. The minorities, in particular, are being targeted with a genocidal vengeance.

    The targeted killing of Shias, in particular the Hazara community in Balochistan, has captured headlines in the last two years for three reasons. First, the scale of the killings is alarming – nearly 1000 have been killed in the last eighteen months, mainly in Balochistan, Karachi and the Northern Areas. Second, the assassins – Sipah e Sahaba, Lashkar e Jhangvi and various related offshoots – have been audacious enough to claim responsibility. Third, the civil-military establishment has admitted its unwillingness or inability to tackle this menace for reasons that are flimsy and self-serving.

    The Ahmedis and Christians have been laid low by the blasphemy laws that enable mischief mongers and vested interests to target them with impunity. Chapels, charities, schools and homes have been attacked. Graves have been desecrated. In the Gojra riots in Punjab, 2009, a Christian community was forced to flee, its homes were looted and burnt down. In 2011, Shahbaz Bhatti, a notable Christian leader, was assassinated in broad daylight. The same year, a mob attacked a Christian community in Gujranwala. And last week, another frenzied mob burnt down 200 Christian homes in a Lahore suburb. In every case, the PMLN administration has either avoided pre-emptive action or stood by while the Muslims mobs have rampaged. Indeed, in every case, the provincial or local government in question has screamed its party-political innocence by scapegoating the police department, swept the inquiry report under the rug and refused to learn any lessons for the future.

    The Gojra incident illustrates this well. A Tribunal of Inquiry headed by Justice Iqbal Hameedur Rehman, who is now a Supreme Court judge, delivered a 258-page indictment of the provincial government. The report was never made public precisely for this reason. But its main conclusions saw the light of day. First, it warned that “the unfortunate incident of Gojra must be taken seriously and the needful be done on a war-footing without further loss of time.” But the PMLN government did exactly the opposite by consigning it to the rubbish bin. Second, the Tribunal advised appropriate amendments to the blasphemy laws – in particular PPC Sections 295, 295-A, 295-B, 295-C, 296, 297, 298, 298-A, 298-B, 298-C, and relevant provisions of CrPC 196 and 196-B and Police Order 2002 – to strip them of their mischief-making potential. But no government has had the courage to do this. Third, it focused “on the inability of the police to assess the gravity and sensitivity of the situation”, it noted the “inadequate precautionary and preventive measure by the police”, and the “failure of the intelligence agencies in providing prompt and correct information”. Much the same charge is now being laid at the door of the various law and order departments of government. Fourth, it criticized the “irresponsible behaviour of the administration” for willfully ignoring the developing situation. This happens time and again.

    The recent incident in Lahore demonstrates the opportunist political approach of the PMLN. The police – and therefore the government – knew the full facts of the matter before the alleged Christian blasphemer was even arrested. They knew the charge was patently fabricated; that a section of local traders had a vested interest in seizing the Christians’ property; that local PMLN “influentials” were egging on the vested interests. But the police did nothing for 36 hours after the arrest to thwart any Muslim mob attack on the community. If anything, the lack of any preventive show of force by the administration or warning to potential trouble-makers that they would be dealt with an iron hand, probably encouraged the mob-drivers to attack the Christian community. Indeed, when a contingent of the police arrived on the scene during the mob’s looting and arson, it preferred to stand aside and watch rather than wading in to disperse the arsonists. Police officials openly admit that when they sought orders from their political masters, the orders were either ambiguous or delayed or contradictory. In other words, the government only moved to redress the situation with offers of compensation after the media flogged it for its antipathy.

    The PMLN’s attitude towards the Christians and Ahmedis is distinctly blameworthy. Worse, its soft, hands-off approach to militant anti-Shia organisations like the SSP and LeJ is condemnable. A bit of fear and some sneaking sympathy for the cause of such groups is all too evident. For a party that plans to rule Pakistan for the third time, this is unforgiveable.

    Editorial: The Friday Times
    March 15-21, 2013 – Vol. XXV, No. 05

    http://www.thefridaytimes.com/beta3/tft/article.php?issue=20130315&page=1

    پاکستان مسلم لیگ (ن) عوام کی عدالت میں… نجم سیٹھی

    مذہب کا سیاسی مقاصد کیلئے استعمال اور قومی سلامتی کی ناقص پالیسی پاکستان کو نقصان پہنچارہی ہے تاہم نہ تو فوجی جنرل ، جنہوں نے 1980ء کی تباہ کن دہائی میں انتہاپسندی کے زہرناک بیج بوئے یہاں تک کہ 1990ء کی دہائی میں بہت سے زہریلے ناگ سراٹھانے لگے اور نہ ہی سیاست دانوں، جنہوں نے اس برائی سے مجرمانہ اغماض برتتے ہوئے اس کو معاشرے میں قدم جمانے کا موقع دیا، نے ان سماج دشمن عناصر کی سرکوبی کی کوئی سنجیدہ کوشش کی ہے۔ اس غفلت کے نتیجے میں، آج درجنوں مسلح جہادی گروہ، لسانی تنظیمیں، قبائلی علیحدگی پسند اور دہشت گردوں کے لشکر نام بدل بدل کر ملک میں دندناتے پھر رہے ہیں۔ ان کی کارروائیوں سے یہ سرزمین لہو رنگ ہے۔
    گزشتہ کچھ عرصہ سے اقلیتیں اور اہل ِ تشیع حضرات ان تنظیموں کی پُرتشدد کارروائیوں کا ہدف ہیں۔ یہ صورتحال اس لئے بھی انتہائی تشویشناک ہے کیونکہ گزشتہ دو سال میں بلوچستان، کراچی اور شمالی علاقوں میں ایک ہزار سے زائد اہل تشیع، خاص طور پر ہزارہ برادری سے تعلق رکھنے والے افراد، ان لشکروں کے انتقام کا نشانہ بن چکے ہیں۔ دوسرے اس لئے کہ ان گھناؤنی کارروائیوں کا ارتکاب کرنے والے قاتل، لشکر ِ جھنگوی اور سپاہ ِ صحابہ اور ان کے بہت سے ”دست و بازو“ اتنے بے خوف ہیں کہ وہ کھلے بندوں اس خونریزی کی ذمہ داری قبول کر لیتے ہیں کیونکہ اُن کو سزا کا کوئی ڈر نہیں ہے۔ تیسری بات یہ ہے کہ سول ملٹری اسٹیبلشمنٹ اس خطرے سے نمٹنا ہی نہیں چاہتے یا اس سے نمٹنے کے قابل نہیں ہیں۔
    عیسائیوں اور احمدیوں کے سر پر ہر وقت توہین کے قوانین کی تلوار لٹکی رہتی ہے۔ اسی قانون کی آڑ میں بعض شرپسند عناصر اپنے مذموم مقاصد کی تکمیل کیلئے گھناؤنی کارروائیاں کرتے ہیں کیونکہ اس پر کوئی سزا نہیں ملتی ہے۔ مثال کے طور پر گزشتہ ایک دہائی سے ملک، خاص طور پر پنجاب میں عیسائیوں کے خلاف بارہ بڑے پُرتشدد واقعات پیش آئے ہیں۔ ان واقعات میں گرجوں ، عیسائی اسکولوں اور رہائشی آبادیوں پر منظم حملے شامل ہیں۔ 2009ء میں گوجرہ میں ہونے والے ہنگامے میں عیسائی آبادی کو گھر بار چھوڑنے پر مجبور کر دیا گیا پھر ان کے گھروں کو لوٹ لیا گیا اور باقی سامان کو نذ رِ آتش کر دیا گیا۔ 2011ء میں ایک مشہورعیسائی سیاست دان مسٹر شہباز بھٹی کو دن دہاڑے گولی ماردی گئی۔ اسی سال گجرانوالہ میں بپھرے ہوئے ہجوم نے عیسائی آبادی پر حملہ کرکے نقصان پہنچایا۔ گزشتہ ہفتے لاہور میں جوزف کالونی میں ہجوم نے دوسو کے قریب عیسائی گھروں کو لوٹنے کے بعد جلا کر راکھ کر دیا۔ ان تمام واقعات میں ایک چیز مماثلت رکھتی ہے… انتظامیہ نے حالات کی سنگینی کو بھانپتے ہوئے عیسائی آبادی کو پہلے سے ہی محفوظ بنانے کی کوشش نہ کی اور خاموش تماشائی بن کر دیکھتی رہی جب کہ جنونی افراد کا ہجوم لوٹ مار کرتارہا۔ ان تمام واقعات کے بعد صوبائی یا مقامی حکومت نے پولیس کو قربانی کا بکرا بنا کر کچھ افسران کو معطل کیا اور پھر انکوائری رپورٹ پر مٹی ڈال دی گئی۔ ہر واقعے کے بعد پیش آنے والا ایک اور ایسا ہی واقعہ ظاہر کرتا ہے کہ حکومت اس سے کچھ بھی سبق سیکھنے کی ضرورت محسوس نہیں کرتی ہے۔
    اس ضمن میں گوجرہ کا واقعہ بہت کچھ واضح کر دیتا ہے۔ اس کے بعد جسٹس اقبال حمید الرحمن، جو اب سپریم کورٹ کے جج ہیں، کی سربراہی میں بننے والے ٹربیونل نے دو سو اٹھاون صفحات کی رپورٹ تیار کی تھی ۔ اس میں پنجاب حکومت کو مورد ِ الزام ٹھہرایا گیا تھا، اس لئے اسے عوام کے سامنے پیش نہ کیا گیا تاہم نتائج اظہر من الشمس ہیں۔ اس رپورٹ میں بہت اہم سفارشات پیش کی گئیں۔ سب سے پہلی یہ ہے…”گوجرہ میں پیش آنے والے افسوسناک واقعے کو سنجیدگی سے لیتے ہوئے ہنگامی بنیادوں پر ایسے واقعات کی روک تھام کے لئے اقدامات اٹھائے جائیں“۔ تاہم اس کے برعکس پی ایم ایل (ن) کی حکومت کی طرف سے کوئی کارروائی دیکھنے میں نہ آئی۔دوسری سفارش یہ تھی کہ توہین رسالت کے قانون میں مناسب ترمیم کی جائے… خاص طور پر پی پی سی سیکشن 295, 295-A, 295-B, 295-C, 296, 297, 298, 298-A, 298-B, 298-C/اور ان سے منسلک سی آر پی سی 196 اور196-B/اور پولیس آرڈر 2002ء کو بھی تبدیل کیا جائے۔ اس کی وجہ یہ تھی کہ ان دفعات کے منفی استعمال کے امکانات موجود ہیں تاہم کسی حکومت میں ان میں ترامیم کرنے کا حوصلہ نہیں ہے۔ تیسری اہم بات یہ تھی کہ اس رپورٹ میں یہ بات واضح الفاظ میں درج ہے کہ ”پولیس صورتحال کی سنگینی کو بھانپنے میں ناکام رہی چنانچہ اس کی طرف سے ان واقعات کی روک تھام کے اقدامات نظر نہیں آئے۔ خفیہ ادارے بھی ان واقعات کی درست اطلاع دینے میں ناکام رہے“۔ آج لاہور کے واقعے کے بعد مختلف حلقے مقامی حکومت پر ایسے الزامات ہی عائد کر رہے ہیں۔ اس رپورٹ میں انتظامیہ کے غیر ذمہ دارانہ رویّے کی بھی مذمت کی گئی ہے تاہم ان واقعات کی طرح، ایسی انکوائری رپورٹس اور سفارشات معمول کی بات ہیں، کوئی حکومت ان کو سنجیدگی سے لینے کی روادار نہیں ہے۔
    لاہور میں پیش آنے والا حالیہ واقعہ پاکستان مسلم لیگ (ن) کی موقع پرستی پر مبنی سیاست کی غمازی کرتا ہے۔ پولیس اور اسی طرح مقامی حکومت… توہین کا ارتکاب کرنے والے عیسائی نوجوان کی گرفتاری سے قبل تمام حقائق جانتی تھی۔ وہ جانتے تھے کہ الزام خود ساختہ ہے کیونکہ مقامی تاجروں کا ایک گروہ اس آبادی سے عیسائی خاندانوں کو نکال کر اس پر قبضہ کرنا چاہتا تھا۔ یہ بات بھی کی جارہی ہے کہ بلوہ کرنے والے افراد کو پی ایم ایل (ن) سے تعلق رکھنے والے مقامی بااثر افراد کی آشیرباد حاصل تھی۔ پولیس نے اُس نوجوان کی گرفتاری کے 36 گھنٹے بعد بھی ہجوم کو روکنے کی کوئی کوشش نہ کی۔ چونکہ بپھرے ہوئے ہجوم نے دیکھا کہ اُن کو روکنے والا کوئی نہیں ہے چنانچہ اُنہوں نے جو چاہا کیا۔ جب وہ جنونی افراد لوٹ مارکرنے اور آگ لگانے میں مصروف تھے تو پولیس کی بھاری نفری وہاں پہنچ گئی تھی لیکن وہ خاموش تماشائی بن کر دیکھتے رہے۔ اُنہوں نے ہجوم کو منتشر کرنے کے لئے کچھ نہ کیا۔ پولیس افسران کا کہنا ہے کہ اُن کو سیاسی قیادت کی طرف سے جو احکامات وصول ہوئے وہ غیر واضح تھے یا اُن میں تضاد تھا چنانچہ وہ اقدامات اٹھانے میں ناکام رہے۔ اس کا مطلب ہے کہ اُس وقت سیاسی قیادت نے عیسائی آبادی کو بچانے کے لئے کچھ نہ کیا تاہم میڈیا میں ہونے والی شدید تنقید کے بعد تلافی کے نام پر نمبر بنانے کی کوشش کر رہی ہے۔ حقیقت یہ ہے کہ پاکستان مسلم لیگ (ن) ،جو تیسری مرتبہ ملک کی قیادت سنبھالنے کیلئے پر تول رہی ہے، نے اپنی انتہا پسند شیعہ مخالف تنظیموں سے روابط کے حوالے سے بہت سے سوالات کے جواب دینے ہیں۔ اس سے یہ سوالات اتنے خوشگوار نہیں ہوں گے۔

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