It is said that Shaitan’s greatest trick was convincing the world that he didn’t exist. After all, once you stop believing in him, it is easier for him to next trick you that your sins are not sins at all. Ironically, it can also be said that Taliban’s greatest trick has been convincing us that they are more powerful than they really are.
Of course, just like Shaitan, the Taliban do exist. I am no Taliban apologist that repeats lies about ‘40,000 Raymond Davises’ or other invisible bogeys. Our enemy is very real, and it is easy to see if we will only open our eyes to see it. 50,000 Pakistanis were not killed since the past 10 years by ‘hidden hands’, they were killed by jihadi militants.
These jihadi militants go by many names – Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi, Sipah-e-Sahaba, Lashkar-e-Taiba, al Qaeda, Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. They share some of the same goals and even some of the same members, but they are different groups with different leaderships and they can come together, disperse, and re-form as necessary.
TTP has one advantage that the others do not, however, which is a sophisticated propaganda wing. TTP’s leadership understands how to manipulate the media, and how to use this to manipulate the public. This is how they have tricked people like Imran Khan into believing that the attacks were in retaliation for drones. But then the drones stopped, but instead of stopping, the jihadi attacks increased.
The other trick that the TTP played was in creating the illusion that they could stop attacks if their demands were met. Otherwise sane people began talking about giving in to their demands in order to gain peace. But again, despite being on the edge of gaining unprecedented concessions, attacks increased.
The truth is, TTP is one jihadi group among many. They are a symptom, not the disease. As Army and PAF finally take action against TTP militants in North Waziristan, we must not let ourselves continue to be tricked by their clever lies and believe that by defeating them we will have defeated our enemy and restored peace. Cutting a tumor off of one arm will not cure the tumor on the other arm. Militants must be defeated in North Waziristan, but they must also be defeated in Karachi, and in Punjab, and in every other part of the country. This can only be done by defeating not just the symptoms, which are the militants, but the disease, which is extremism.
Army operations in 2009 were meant to take care of the Taliban problem. Five years later Army is going back into Waziristan again. This time, we must defeat the enemy at its root, which is the disease of extremism. Otherwise, we may not have another chance in the next five years.