By Sultan Shahin, Editor, New Age Islam
Sheikh ul-Islam Maulana Tahir ul Quadri and Imran Khan
Operation Zarb-e-Azb was launched at the behest of the army because it was the army that was at the receiving end of the Taliban during their so-called ‘Peace Dialogue’ with the Nawaz Sharif government. The army has lost five thousands of its soldiers to the terrorism of Taliban. When the army could not take it lying any more, they started the Zarb-e-Azb and perhaps the government also did not know about the army’s move till the last moment. That was why Nawaz Sharif told the National Assembly about the operation when it had already been launched. Jamaat-e-Islam Pakistan openly protested attacks on Taliban while Imran Khan had said that it would have been better if the opposition had been taken into confidence on the issue.
The army and the government knew that if the decision on the operation was made public in advance, different political and religious organisations and individuals would have tried to stall the operation by blackmailing the government and putting pressure from various corners. Since, the government, the army and general people were pushed to the wall by the Taliban as they made attacks after attacks on civilians and the army alike, holding the nation to ransom, the operation provided a much needed relief and it was welcomed from all quarters. The army destroyed many hideouts of the terrorists and killed more than 400 terrorists, both domestic and foreign. The opposition that wanted the strikes against the Taliban to be stopped kept silent for a while as expressing their support to Taliban would have invited the ire of the general masses and made them highly unpopular threatening their political career.
It is known to all that the support of Taliban to any political party before elections was crucial to its victory and before the last elections there was an understanding between the PML-League and the Taliban. According to this understanding, they helped Nawaz Sharif win and form the government. Shahbaz Sharif is especially known close to the Taliban as he has permitted them to carry out their activities in Punjab. Therefore, Punjabi Taliban grew with their separate identity.
However, there were sections, and still are, in PML that have soft corner for Taliban and do not want the operation to continue. Chaudhary Nisar Ali, a minister in the Federal Government is not happy with the operation against Taliban and has threatened to leave the government. Imran Khan’s pary has formed the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa with the help of Jamaat Islami. Jamaat Islami has sympathies with Taliban and has opposed any move by the government to declare the Taliban a terrorist organisation earlier as well. Ironically, Imran Khan got the public mandate by the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on the promise that he would root out terrorism from the area. Now he is tacitly supporting Taliban under the pressure from Jamaat-e- Islami.
Tahirul Qadri’s strategy and objective is very difficult to understand. He is opposed to not only Taliban but to all the terrorist and militant organisations, particularly of Pakistan. So Taliban is one of them. Two years ago, he published his comprehensive fatwa declaring suicide bombings and mindless killings of innocent people un-Islamic. He is also said to be close to the army which is carrying out an operation against the Taliban. So he should be happy with the actions the Pakistan government and the army are taking against the Taliban. Cleansing Pakistan of terrorist is the most important part of the revolution he wants to bring about. He should also be happy that the present government has taken the initiative while the former government under Kayani’s pressure did not take the decision.
The occurrence of the bloody confrontation between the Punjab government which has sympathies with Taliban and his party Awami Tahreek is a mystery because it occurred exactly when the operation went underway and gave Tahirul Qadri the opportunity to come back to Pakistan and start his revolution. It should be recalled that earlier during his movement against the Zardari government, a section of the media and political circles had claimed that Tahirul Qadri was working at the behest of some foreign powers. The timing of his return again seems to be important. The death of eight people is really very painful and unfortunate but in a country where more serious and painful events of death and destruction keep taking place, making this incident the ploy to launch a movement against the present elected government when the whole nation is fighting the battle against Taliban smacks of his insincere and immature approach to politics and society.
Maulana Fazl ur Rahman who is a staunch supporter of Taliban and has come to their rescue in the past as well kept silent about the operation though he did not obviously like the operation against the Taliban. But now when leaders of PML themselves have revolted and Imran Khan also threatens to trouble the government with his Tsunami rally in Islamabad on 14 August, Maulana Fazl ur Rahman has found an opportunity to express his views against Operation Zarb-e-Azb. He has said that the Pak government did not take the dialogues with Taliban seriously and so this situation has arisen. Maulana Fazl ur Rahman had warned the Zardari government against any operation against Taliban in the wake of attack on Malala two years ago.
Taking into account the behaviour of Imran Khan, Tahirul Qadri and of Maulana Fazlur Rahman, it can be said that they do not want the operation to continue because it has broken the back of the Taliban and if the ground and aerial offensive continues, they might be annihilated. This has prompted the Taliban to press their agents in the government like Chaudhary Nisar Ali, Maulana Fazl ur Rahman and Imran Khan to disturb the process and possibly stall the operation to give Taliban time to reorganise themselves and regain strength. Maulana Fazl ur Rahman’s Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam runs the madrasa chain in Pakistan where the Mujahideen are prepared. So if there is no Taliban, Maulana Fazl ur Rehman will lose his clout among the political circles of Pakistan. Because of Taliban, he has his influence both on Taliban and on the government. So, Maulana Fazl ur Rahman and Imran Khan depend a lot on the Taliban for their political survival. As for Mr Tahirul Qadri, he may leave for Pakistan when his elusive revolution does not take place. He wants to remove all the existing system to build the Pakistan of his dream which might never be possible.