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Picking Sides

by Newsweek Pakistan

Ali Jan—AFP

Elements of Pakistan’s state might be working to win over terrorists rather than target them for elimination.

The media wing of Pakistan’s military, the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), quoted on Jan. 21 Army chief General Qamar Bajwa as stating: “Terrorists will fail in their attempt to regain lost relevance.” He was reacting to the bombing of a vegetable market in Kurram Agency’s Parachinar city that killed 25 people and injured dozens more.

Based on this statement, Gen. Bajwa sees the horrendous massacre of the Shia community in Parachinar as an effort at self-revival by terrorists pushed back by former Army chief General Raheel Sharif under the military’s Operation Zarb-e-Azb. General Bajwa is acting squarely in conformity with that policy. His reaction to the latest Shia-killing is laudable and reassuring.

In a message to media, the banned Lashkar-e-Jhangvi al-Alami claimed the slaughter, saying it was carried out in cooperation with the Shehryar Mehsud group, a Taliban splinter faction. The Parachinar Shia community is surrounded by Sunni tribes and the road between Kurram and Peshawar, which winds through Kohat, is often deadly for them. This area, where terrorists have operated freely in the past, is home to a cantonment and a strategic Air Force base. Kohat was where the wives of Al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden resided—and nearby Bannu is where a terrorist (also a former employee of the Pakistan Air Force) doing time after attempting to kill former Army chief General Pervez Musharraf was sprung from jail.

The recent abductions of “liberal” bloggers—allegedly by state agencies—signals another problem: elements of the state might be acting to remove the objections terrorists have to the Pakistani lifestyle rather than the terrorists. Resultantly, it is the free-thinking Pakistani who has become less “relevant” than the terrorist who wants to kill them. In addition to action against well-known terrorists, Pakistan needs to eliminate elements within the state whose thinking runs close to the killers’ murderous ideology.

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