Security agencies have been trying to strengthen the impression that the attack on Bhutto's procession was carried out by the tribesmen -- thus deciding that a large army operation is needed in the tribal areas.
Most of the tribesmen are of the opinion that those who have been operating terrorist attacks from the tribal areas are the men of the establishment, so instead of launching operations in the entire region, the government of Pakistan should carry out targetted actions. According to them, the security agencies can easily nab the terrorists as they know where they have staying and how they have been operating. Actually, they have been trained by the same Pakistani forces.
According to a rough estimate, so far thousands of women and children have been killed in the fighting, but the real terrorists have still been walking free. So this time only the terrorists should be targetted. Now the people of tribal areas are ready to provide support to the security forces in their operation. Utmost care should be taken for saving the lives of innocent people. Now the government should fight the war on the basis of now or never.
According to an editorial comment of a newspaper, Al Qaeda has killed 138 innocent people and wounded over 550 in Karachi in a twin suicide-bombing attack aimed at assassinating Ms Benazir Bhutto as she proceeded from the Karachi airport to the mausoleum of the Quaid-e Azam early Friday morning.
The planners of the bombings were sophisticated enough to first spread disinformation through the TV channels and the press that they had made no threats, a stratagem accepted by the media unquestioningly. Although the threats delivered by the Al Qaeda deputy in South Waziristan, Baitullah Mehsud, clearly named suicide bombers, nothing could be done in Karachi to intercept the two attackers as they moved towards Ms Bhutto’s reinforced truck, clad in suspiciously inflated-looking jackets.
Disinformation was subconsciously planted a day earlier through a respectable journalist who reported on TV that his inquiries had turned up the following “facts”: (1) that no one really knew who exactly had sent the information to the press that Baitullah Mehsud had vowed to “train” dozens of suicide-bombers to kill Ms Bhutto as she arrived in Karachi; (2) that sources close to Baitullah Mehsud had told the journalist that no such threats were made by him; (3) that another person, a JUIF leader from the Tribal Areas, Senator Maulana Saleh Shah, who was supposed to have been instrumental in putting the threats in circulation, also denied that he had done so, pleading “out of context” misconstruction of his earlier statement. Under the circumstances, the following day the print media prominently carried the “news” that Baitullah Mehsud had made no threats on the life of Ms Bhutto.
While the Chief Secretary of Sindh had warned that there were credible intelligence reports that suicide-bombers might attack the rally, the Federal Interior Secretary, Syed Kamal Shah, came on TV to discount the fact that the PPP camp outside the Islamabad courts compound had earlier been targeted by Al Qaeda; he said he was convinced that it was the police that the killers had targeted. This tended to dent the real threat to the PPP leadership from Al Qaeda. On the other hand, statements made by Ms Bhutto counted the attack on the PPP workers outside the Islamabad courts as a clear indication that the terrorists would be targeting her. Matters were muddied further when, after the post-midnight slaughter, a retired general known for his hawkish Islamic-nationalist views stated on TV that the attack could have been ordered by the MQM leader Altaf Hussain “whom the British authorities had warned that if he carried out any attack on her he would be handed over”. Since he hates Ms Bhutto, he kept emphasising that Ms Bhutto was doing the bidding of the Americans, while Mr Nawaz Sharif was being kept out of the country.
What has happened in Karachi brings out the collective “denial” of problem number one in Pakistan. The biggest political reductionism of our day is the false belief that “there is no terrorism in the Tribal Areas and that the Pakistan army is killing its own people under orders from the United States”.
Indeed, most people deny that there is Al Qaeda in Waziristan and that there are any “foreign” terrorists located there. Religious leaders of the Tribal Areas have come on TV to swear that no “foreigners” were hiding in their region. The opposition politicians have simply used these clerical denials as evidence to counter the government’s claim that foreign elements ensconced in Waziristan were carrying out terrorism all over the country. And the opposition has been drawing the conclusion that once Pakistan declares its abandonment of the American “design”, all terrorism will quickly disappear. One must also say that some of the PPP leaders in the Senate have been saying the same thing in their anti-American passion. The “denial” in Pakistan is supposedly in the service of “democracy” whose absence is deemed to be the country’s “problem number one”. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
The truth is that it is not democracy but terrorism and the loss of the internal sovereignty of the state that is problem number one. Democracy can function only after conditions for it have been created, the topmost of which is “law and order” and “writ of the government”. Both these conditions have been declining in the country for the past couple of decades only partly because of lack of sufficient democracy and mainly because of rising notions of honour and Islamism, with the result that democracy is now increasingly difficult to realise. Friday’s suicide-bombings have made it starkly clear that unless the streets are made safe (democratic) no free and fair elections (democracy) can be held in January 2008. The advocates of the “primacy” of democracy therefore should think again. Unless they get their priorities right they run the risk of becoming subordinated, in the eyes of the people, to those like President Pervez Musharraf and Ms Bhutto, who want to fight terrorism for the sake of Pakistan and not because America also desires it.
Anyone looking at Pakistan from the outside has no doubt about what is happening here. For instance, the Australian Prime Minister did not pause before saying that the bombing yesterday was an Al Qaeda act. The leaders of Germany, some of whose non-Muslim citizens have been taking training for terrorism in Waziristan, have no doubt what the real problem of Pakistan is. Inside Pakistan, the biggest obstacle in the way of democracy is terrorism, and those who don’t want to fight it cannot be friends of democracy.
One last matter. The PPP has accused “rogue elements” in the country’s intelligence agencies for targeting Ms Bhutto and demanded the sacking of the DG-IB. This is misplaced concreteness. While the presence of “rogue elements” in the institutions of the state cannot be denied, given the past rogue history of these institutions, it is absurd to target the DG-IB. This is almost like targeting General Musharraf himself, given the trust and confidence that General Musharraf reposes in the DG-IB, who also happens to be a personal friend of his. It would have been more appropriate if the finger had pointed squarely at Al Qaeda elements who have publicly sworn to mow down both General Musharraf and Ms Bhutto. The last thing that either General Musharraf or Ms Bhutto should want is to play into the hands of those who want to drive a wedge between them and scuttle the liberal-democratic transition alliance in the making.