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Islam and Politics ( 11 Apr 2014, NewAgeIslam.Com)

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Pakistan: Growing Concerns about Punjab



By Mujahid Hussain, New Age Islam

10 April 2014

When we have very scarce information on the ongoing talks between Taliban and the Pakistani government, it is too difficult for us to encompass and investigate all the facets of the matter. The reason behind this scarcity is an ambiguity that has been created by the two parties of the treaty; Taliban and the government, to further their ends, as neither of them allows itself to land in a trouble. This state of affairs is a compelling evidence to prove that the Pakistani government is going hand in hand with the Taliban as two parties of a treaty. We can clearly see that the government is beginning to welcome the Taliban’s demands with open arms. 

Some sources have revealed that over 150 Talibani prisoners charged with heinous crimes have been released during the last one week. A big list of such released prisoners has been handed over to the dialogue committee with a firm declaration that the release of the Talibani prisoners will be finalised without giving the media any chance to stumble upon it. Since the Pakistani government is suffering from grave internal disputes, one of its high officials has revealed, although off the record, that hundreds of the Talibani prisoners are being released by the government. This is precisely why the Prime Minister house had to mince words of caution saying that only one and half dozen “non-militant prisoners” were set free. By issuing this explanatory statement, the Pakistani government has invented a new and a more significant term i.e. non-militant Taliban, than what we had previously heard of: good and bad Taliban. 

Obviously, we need more clarification on the term of non-militant Taliban. Since those prisoners were not armed during their release, one can be justified to declare them non-militant. But who knows how many of them have now turned into extremist militants? No concrete information is available with us. There is no denying the fact that even in such “delicate cases” our government keeps us in complete darkness about its crucial information without bothering whether what shape will it give to the public pulse about the evil elements of our society. The government does not care whether what will be the common perception of its people, if it takes stern actions against them in times to come.

 The government should have revealed the list of the released prisoners to the media so that they could make the people aware about the role of their government in the talks with the Taliban. But neither of the parties will have any advantage in doing so, as both are fully aware that the deal of the talks that they are engaged with is temporary with no lasting results.

On the other hand, there are clear signs that political turmoil is on the rise in Pakistan. The recent speeches delivered on the anniversary of Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the former prime minister of Pakistan, concluded that the government of Punjab is not only backing the terrorists but also financing them to perpetuate their existence. It is a sign of dangerous development in the region that will produce fatal consequences. If other provinces too choose the same line of thinking, it will imply that they have created a huge vacuum by fertilising terror activities and sectarianism instead of exerting concerted efforts for counterterrorism. Pakistan People’s Party Co-chairman Bilawal Bhutto has given a clear reference to the government of Punjab in his speech on the occasion of his grandfather’s anniversary. He hinted in his speech that Punjab is the biggest patron of all terror outfits actively engaged in the country.  

Although this quick reaction of Bilawal Bhutto came in the wake of the threats from the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which is supposed to be a small terrorist organisation, there is no denying that all financial support that Lashkar-e-Jhangvi enjoys today is stemming from centres based in Punjab. On the other hand, some sources revealed that an important member of the provincial cabinet has got huge political power and financial prowess by backing up the sectarian factions. 

Such prevailing common perception that Punjab is providing patronage to those responsible for the terror activities in the country is a very dangerous development in Sindh. It will, obviously, result into fatal consequences. Already in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there are grave concerns in some quarters that a substantial number of the extremists and terrorists in the tribal areas belong to Punjab, while, on the other hand, it is impossible to deny the presence of the Punjabi militants in the northern areas such as Gilgit-Baltistan. This is a very disturbing trend that will jeopardise the country if it spreads in other provinces too. Perhaps it will be impossible to eliminate terrorism from the region, if the whole country begins to believe that the primary sources of terrorism are based in Punjab.

Given the recently received clear proofs, we will not be wrong if we assert that the ongoing talks between the Tahreek-e-Taliban and Pakistani government are just increasing doubts and ambiguity causing many other provinces to have more reservations about it. If the government intends to give conditional concessions to the Taliban and wants it, in return, to stop its terror attacks for an unlimited period, it is not going to do no help. Let us not forget that Taliban will bear no loss in halting its expeditions. It will suffer loss only when it is disarmed, or its network is spoiled, or above all, when its financial sources spreading outside the tribal areas are closed.

When the government did not wish to disarm the Taliban, or spoil its huge network, or close its financial sources, then what could have stopped the Taliban from holding talks with it, especially now when many of its members are being set free from prisons? The most depressing moment in the year will be the time when it will be patently clear that the government wanted to restore peace for a temporary period, not for once and all, with an aim to keep the period of its own rule free from terrorism and violence. It will be the time when one will get to know that the government, by holding talks with the Taliban, wished to further its own political objectives and not to put an end to extremism. Given the situation, the prime minister, interior minister, and Punjab chief minister will have to immediately take steps to end such perceptions and growing concerns. For whatever is being felt about the government of Punjab does not augur well. The government of Punjab needs to answer and retort the questions that are doing rounds such as why the senior members of the provincial cabinet are being found guilty for providing patronage to the terrorists and sectarian elements and why sectarianism and all terror activities in the country stem from the province of Punjab. These are some of the grave apprehensions on part of the people that urgently need to be redressed. 

The author of nine books including the recent "Punjabi Taliban", Mujahid Hussain writes a regular weekly column for New Age Islam. He is also chief of New Age Islam Brussels Bureau. He has been contributing to leading papers as an investigative journalist for about two decades. His writings cover a vast panorama of topics concerning political and societal existence of Pakistan, a nation passing through difficult straits since a short time after its birth. With terrorism and security issues at local, regional, and global levels as his special area of study in recent years, Mujahid Hussain has earned a sizable readership in serious circles in Pakistan and abroad. Follower of an independent, non-partisan, and objective way of thinking, the author offers honest analysis of the challenges threatening communities, nations, and humanity at large.

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