Sartaj Aziz recent statements warning about ‘blowback‘ if the state tries to tackle militancy in Pakistan gave an uncomfortable feeling of ‘deja vu’. Analysts have responded asking whether this is a return to the old policy of fighting ‘bad’ Taliban while protecting ‘good’ Taliban. Is there really any question about this?
Here is ‘Good Taliban’ after recent militant attack in Kashmir
And here is the state’s response to their attack
And here is Karachi, which is supposedly under heavy operation by Pakistan security forces
Militants from ‘banned’ Jaish-e-Mohammad openly fundraising for jihad right under Rangers noses and we are supposed to believe that there is no policy of protecting ‘Good’ Taliban?
The only thing wrong with the question about whether there is a return to the state’s policy of ‘Good’ Taliban ‘Bad’ Taliban is that for a ‘return’ one has to actually leave. The state has never given up on the jihadi proxies, and the blowback that has cost 60,000 innocent lives. But this is a small price to pay for our leaders ‘living the dream’.
When American media announced that Taliban chief Akhtar Mansour was killed by a US drone strike in Balochistan, the response of the state was silence. Soon came posts on social media with photos of a Pakistani passport and CNIC that were supposedly recovered from the scene. This was met with laughter by not only the hyper-nationalist crowd but even liberals. Jokes began to go around saying security forces were issuing new bullet proof jackets made of Pakistani passports. Even those criticising our Afghan policy found the situation ridiculous. How is it that a car and two people are completely incinerated by a hell fire missile but his Pakistani IDs just HAPPEN to survive in perfect condition? The answer was in the question: We were being framed. Again.
Only, this time at least, it appears that there was no framing. Sartaj Aziz has confirmed that the person killed in the attack was Mullah Mansour and that Pakistani authorities had identified him by DNA test. More surprising, though, was that the government confirmed that the official government documents that were recovered, the passport and CNIC, were authentic. They had a fake name, but they were real documents issued by NADRA. Interior Ministry has ordered a ‘crackdown‘ against officials for issuing the documents, but it is well known that those behind such things do not answer to the Interior Ministry.
Sometimes, ridiculous things happen. As ridiculous as it sounds, a hell fire missile did incinerate a car and two people yet a Pakistani passport and CNIC somehow survived intact. Does it matter that even the state has confirmed it? No, we will prefer to stick to our denials and our jokes about ‘bomb proof passports’. It may be a ridiculous mindset that refuses to believe what has already been confirmed, but if we start accepting these things then we will be forced to face the most ridiculous thing of all, which is our own foreign policy that causes such things in the first place. After all, Amir-ul-Momineen will come and go…but our denialism is truly bomb proof.
The US Congress has passed another law that threatens to cut off aid to Pakistan unless we take action against Haqqani network militants. Sirajuddin Haqqani was a top deputy of Mullah Mansour, and now it is expected that he will be named Amir of Taliban following Mansour’s death in an American drone strike. Haqqani is also considered by some quarters to be pro-Pakistan. Several years ago the top American military commander termed Haqqani network as ‘a veritable arm of ISI‘, secret US documents say ISI paid Haqqani to attack a CIA base in Afghanistan, and even when Army carried out attacks against the Haqqani network, they were ‘tipped off‘ in time to get away.
The death of Mullah Mansour has put Pakistan in a dangerous position. If Haqqani is named as Amir, will we be willing to carry out attacks, or will we finally put an end to our alliance with the international community in the fight against the Taliban? In 2001, US President George Bush gave the choice ‘you are either with us or against us’. It looks like we are facing the same question again. Will we make the same choice this time?
Imran Khan has objected to being called ‘Taliban Khan’, but it is a fact that he has supported the Taliban’s war against the state in Afghanistan. The PTI chief told reporters that he believes Taliban are fighting legitimate jihad against foreign occupation. He has also famously demanded that TTP be allowed to open an office in Pakistan. Now another celebrity has taken up the pro-Taliban position. Hamza Ali Abbasi posted on Facebook singing Taliban’s praises.
It is not an unusual statement as many are praising the Taliban for freeing Shahbaz Taseer. However, the Taliban have strongly denied that they were involved.
“We are unaware of the incident. Our Mujahideen had never been involved in it. We had neither held him (Shahbaz Taseer) nor recovered him,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said. When asked about reports that the Taliban have issued a statement confirming the rumours, Mujahid told The Express Tribune, “This is baseless. We have not issued any statement as the issue does not relate to us and no question arises to comment on it,” he said.
This raises the question, who were media’s “reliable sources” that were pushing the narrative that Taliban were the heroes of the Shahbaz Taseer rescue?
The appearance is that individuals in influential circles that would be considered a reliable source of Taliban movements in restricted areas were acting as Taliban propagandists and trying to white wash the Taliban and especially Haqqani Network by fooling people that they played an important role in freeing Shahbaz.
So who is trying to give the appearance that Taliban, and especially those factions that have been very close to ISI, are heroes, and what are they trying to accomplish? Who would have the media connections to plant such fake stories that try to make the Taliban into heroes? It is a question that will probably never be officially answered.
Shabaz Taseer has been returned after being kidnapped nearly five years ago. This is good news both for his family who have suffered immensely in recent years at the hands of extremists. However, for Pakistan more generally, Shahbaz’s rescue raises some difficult questions.
When Shahbaz Taseer was kidnapped off the streets of Lahore in 2011, no one took responsibility. It wasn’t until 2012 that TTP admitted responsibility. Two years ago, officials announced they would begin negotiations with TTP commanders that included demands for return of both Shahbaz Taseer and Yousuf Raza Gilani’s son Syed Ali Haider Gilani. Today it appears that those negotiations have paid off, at least partly. Word on the fate of Ali Haider Gilani is now anxiously waited.
So what is wrong with it? Hopefully, there is nothing, but there are questions that are rising. For example, reports had long stated that Shahbaz was being held by TTP in Waziristan, but according to Aitzaz Goraya, head of the Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) Balochistan, he was recovered from a compound in Kuchlak area of Balochistan.
This is worth noting because Kuchlak is an area that has had a strong presence of Afghan Taliban. Security forces have also arrested dozens of TTP militants in Kuchlak also. Questions are now being asked whether the kidnappings were done by Afghan or Pakistan Taliban. Whether he was moved from Waziristan also raises questions such as how Taliban are able to move so freely from Lahore to Waziristan to Quetta without being detected. People are also asking whether the close living relations between “good” Afghan Taliban and “bad” Pakistan Taliban in Kuchlak is more evidence that there is really no difference between the two.
Today, the nation is relieved that Shahbaz Taseer has been released. However, we must remember that this is not the end of the story. We still pray for the safe recovery of Ali Haider Gilani. We also pray that the state stop playing favourites and rid the country of all extremists so that no more families are forced to suffer such pain.