Denying the obvious: A Bold Editorial

Denying the obvious
Editorial, The News, January 03, 2009

The remarks by a Foreign Office spokesman on Jan 1 that Pakistan has no terrorist infrastructure on its soil is going to be taken with a very big pinch of salt – by even many Pakistanis. But before more from us, let's summarise what the FO spokesman said. He said that the Pakistan government was committed to the war against terror and to fighting terrorism, which is good for the simple reason that Pakistan has been one of the countries hit hardest by this scourge. He also said that talk that 'rogue elements' of the ISI were involved in such acts was incorrect and baseless. While this may be true, the fact remains that it was none other than General Pervez Musharraf who as president and army chief had publicly said that the possibility that some former members of the intelligence services were sympathetic to the extremists and the Taliban and were helping them in material and moral terms could not be ruled out.

However, the main bone of contention should be the FO's remarks on the existence of terrorist infrastructure since its spokesman seems to believe that there is none on Pakistani soil. To that one would question whether FATA, specifically the two Waziristan agencies and whether the Northern Areas are part of Pakistan or not. The reason for asking this is that in the case of Waziristan various high officials of the government and state, including General Musharraf, at some point in time since Sept 2001, have publicly said that there exist facilities where those fighting the state of Pakistan and committing terrorist acts receive training and other assistance. Members of the government have in fact also said on record -- and this has been proudly proclaimed by the extremists themselves -- that there exist even some places where suicide bombers are 'produced', through a regimen of indoctrination and training in the use of weapons, suicide vests and so on. In addition to this, several independent media reports have strongly suggested that such camps exist not only in FATA but also in parts of Azad Jammu and Kashmir where proxies sent to India to fight the 'jihad' were trained. Perhaps, these camps may have closed down or more likely assumed a lower profile. However, following the Mumbai attacks and India's accusation against the Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Jamaat-ud-Daawa a facility outside Muzaffarabad was closed down.

And if this is not enough to convince the FO, and the establishment since policy statements on such issues do not come without the approval and/or guidance of the establishment, it could be asked where the suicide bombings and other instances of terrorism that have hit Pakistan with a vengeance in the past two years or so originated from. And what about the existence of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and the stranglehold it enjoys over large swathes of FATA, what about the Swat Taliban and their grip over the once peaceful valley – indeed what about the reach of the extremists even in settled NWFP districts like Bannu, Kohat and Dera Ismail Khan? Are the extremists, who seem to be clearly in control in such areas and to whom most if not all acts of terrorism inside Pakistan are traced to, foreign aliens who train in other countries and are teleported to Pakistani soil to carry out their nefarious activities? Such claims do nothing but undermine the already low credibility that the government (or at least sections of it) has on such matters. The Foreign Office statement may have been made for domestic consumption but it should remember that most Pakistanis -- and certainly the rest of the world looking and scrutinizing our every move -- are not fools.

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