A newspaper received a statement from a Waziristan warlord before the return of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to Pakistan that she will be attacked after her return to the country. It is interesting to note that the procession was attacked in which hundreds of people were killed or maimed, but later, the warlord denied that he had given the statement.
During investigation it was revealed that the letter was issued by former PRO of interior minister of Pakistan to that newspaper. The correspondent of that newspaper admitted that he was given the letter by the former PRO of interior minister. But now again, al-Qaeda and Taliban have sent a letter to the former minister threatening of dire consequences if she remained in the country. According to my conclusion, that letter may have been sent to her from Islamabad as the warlord is not in a position to send a letter.
Just read the comment of that newspaper on the issue. New revelations now point directly to Taliban-Al Qaeda as the origin of threat to the PPP leader Ms Benazir Bhutto. This confirms a Daily Times report on October 5 that she would be attacked by elements from the Tribal Areas that serve Al Qaeda. Indeed, even on October 19, the day after the attack, Daily Times’ lead story pointed the finger at Al-Qaeda. We now learn that a letter posted in Rawalpindi received in the Bar Council room in Islamabad by Ms Bhutto’s lawyer has threatened her with death while announcing that the writer is “the head of suicide-bombers and a friend of Al Qaeda and Osama”.
There is more evidence incriminating Al Qaeda. A mysterious car found at the place of the October 18 blasts in Karachi has been traced by the authorities to the Tribal Areas; three suspected occupants of a hotel in Larkana a day before the arrival of Ms Bhutto have been arrested and one of them is an Afghan national. In Mardan, a similar group led by an “Afghan national” has also been apprehended. Forensic and terrorism experts in the Karachi administration have appeared on TV to say that the October 18 blasts were similar to the eight earlier cases of terrorism in Karachi which were cracked and the culprits apprehended. It was disclosed that the manual trigger for causing explosion used by one suicide-bomber on Shara-e-Faisal was also similar to the ones used in earlier cases. The Taliban-Al Qaeda signature was thus unmistakable.
Accordingly, the PPP has wisely revised its threat perception in light of the new information. Mr Rehman Malik, who is Ms Bhutto’s security adviser, said on Tuesday: “We have not mentioned any names in the FIR lodged with police. We have not accused the Punjab and Sindh chief ministers or the head of the Intelligence Bureau of planning the tragic incident. We have also not said anything against the former NAB deputy chairman. All press reports in this regard are speculative and baseless”. Ms Bhutto is also rethinking her electioneering strategy and might agree to a new style of campaigning to minimise the risk of letting Al Qaeda succeed in its nefarious plans. As the PPP is busy negotiating an interim set-up with the government, the new dimension to her threat perception should be helpful.
There is a tendency in Pakistan to understand Taliban and Al Qaeda separately, in line with the strategy used by the two to hide the joint use they make of funds and weapons at their disposal. What happens in Pakistan is also coordinated with what the Taliban are doing in Afghanistan although it is also “received wisdom” unfortunately that our Taliban are “different” from the Afghan Taliban. But the fact is that the Taliban act as one and Al Qaeda serves as the cement that binds the two. The bombing of girls’ schools have taken place simultaneously in areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan where there was a firmly established local tradition to educate girls. And the bombings in the Tribal Areas and the NWFP have paralleled the bombings in Herat where the Taliban tried but failed to ban female education when they were in power.
Our short public memory has set aside the almost daily reports after 2001 that many of Pakistan’s sectarian organisations were serving the cause of Al Qaeda; and there was a blanket name, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, given to the large number of Pakistanis who were being funded by Osama bin Laden. The beheadings and the suicide-bombings had begun then and carried the Al Qaeda signature. Money was behind the manufacture of suicide-bombers. This money is being paid to the organisers and the minders of the bombers while the bombers themselves are supposed to be moved exclusively by religious passion. In this context, we might recall the statement of the Lal Masjid cleric Rashid Ghazi that he could convert an acolyte into a suicide-bomber in thirty minutes.
As for “negotiating” with those behind the Talibanisation of Pakistan, which some well meaning but clueless people advocate, the time for that is long over. Indeed, a majority of commentators who recommend “negotiation” do not care even to spell out the limits of this parley. From the position of weakness that Pakistan occupies vis-à-vis Al Qaeda, such “negotiation” is bound to revolve on whether or not Pakistan will accept the transformation of the territory lost by it and sit back while the Taliban extend their Islamic character to the rest of our lands. Thus by chiming in with the public passion in Pakistan today, the biggest “conditionality” in this “negotiation” will come to relate to a change in Pakistan’s foreign policy with adverse impact on our national interest. Of course, a corollary to this “conditionality” would be the exclusion of the PPP from any Pakistani negotiating team. And that cannot be acceptable in any transition to democracy in the country.