Signs of Cracks Within?
| by Yasmeen Aftab Ali
( June 29, 2013, Lahore, Sri Lanka Guardian) In an interesting development recently, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan, in call with a local publication, accused two other banned organizations ‘Lashkar-e-Taiba’ and ‘Ansarul Islam’ for planning a massive attack on their bases and supporters in Mohmand region. He said that the two banned groups have entered into alliance with the local anti-Taliban ‘lashkar’ (militia) to target bases of the banned TTP militant group. He warned of retaliation should this happen.
According to the report, Lashkar-e-Taiba, who have been time and again been blamed for militant actions in India, rejected the TTP claim of organizing against them and said the group focuses its activities to the Indian-held Kashmir.
Lashkar-e-Taiba literally Army of the Good or LeT as it is commonly coined, is one of the largest and a most active Islamist organization operating in South Asia. It was founded in 1990 with Hafiz Saeed, Zafar Iqbal and Abdullah Azzam purportedly as its founding members. However, after a move sought by India and the US, the UN Security panel said the charity Jamaat-ud-Dawa is a front for the Pakistani militant group blamed in the attacks on Mumbai that killed 171 people, Saeed issued a statement, ''No Lashkar-e-Taiba man is in Jamaat-ud-Dawa and I have never been a chief of Lashkar-e-Taiba,' (Published The Nation December 11, 2008)
Lashkar-e-Taiba the organization is banned in India, Pakistan, United Kingdom, Russia, Australia and the European Union. LeT professed goal is to limit India’s sovereignty over Jammu and Kashmir. Richard A. Oppel Jr. and Salman Masood in their piece state, “Pakistani authorities have obtained confessions from members of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba that they were involved in the terrorist attacks in Mumbai in November that killed more than 160 people, a Pakistani official said.” (Published NYT December 31, 2008)
Ansar-ul-Islam, a group banned in Pakistan in year 2008, was founded in 2004 by Pir Saifur-Rehman. The group predominantly operates in areas surrounding the Khyber Pass. Reports from Khyber Agency, credit Ansar-ul-Islam as strongly resisting Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TIP).
Bitter infighting between Ansar-ul-Islam and Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TIP) flared up earlier this year, officially killing 61 but unofficial count can be much higher. Government and relief agencies had to set up IDP camps, as thousands fled the Tirah Valley to avoid getting caught in the cross fire. In the presence of strong groups, the Taliban have struggled to gain a foothold in Khyber.
Earlier, according to the SATP data, a total of 1,812 fatalities, including 400 civilians, 152 SFs and 1,260 militants have been recorded in the Khyber Agency since 2008 (data till October 30, 2011). The overall fatalities in FATA during this period stand at 15,690 comprising of 2,663 civilians, 993 SFs and 12,034 militants.
In the light of the alleged threat to Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan by LeT and Ansar-ul-Islam, the local population will bear the brunt of the in-fighting. It will place a greater pressure on the newly formed government. However; there is another dimension to this situation that should not be overlooked.
This in- fighting engages TIP on a new front. It will take the focus away from targeting the civilians and defense personnel and direct it towards the immediate perceived enemy it sees as threatening its supremacy. It offers a good opportunity for the Pak Army to strike based on its intelligence information when TIP is actively combating elsewhere. Fighting on two fronts will weaken the Taliban and take the edge off its thrusts. The valiant Pakistan Army has already reclaimed Tirah Valley from the Taliban, weakening their control in the region.
A weaker Taliban will have a better reason to sit across the negotiation table than a stronger Taliban. Later. It also places the government and army of Pakistan to deal from a position of strength. This is assuming the option to table a talk with the Taliban is undertaken seriously by both sides.
The Pakistan government and army must bear in mind, the Taliban strategy of feigning seriousness of initiating a dialogue only to buy time to regroup. Therefore has to be a Plan ‘A’ and an equally strong Plan ‘B’. What must not be doubted is; it is going to be a long haul.
Intertwined with these caught- up ends are the attacks on Afghan Taliban by the forces led by US. Whenever this happens members of Taliban Pakistan will support as the ties between both organizations are undeniable though both are not the same. According to a CNN Report by Ben Brumfield, “Like their Afghan allies, the Pakistani Taliban believe it must protect Islamic lands from "infidel invaders.” (Published October 17.2012)
It took Sri Lanka over twenty five years to defeat the LTTE, also known as Tamil Tigers. Over twenty years of fighting and four failed peace talks later, terrorism was rooted out from its soil.
There will be many false starts, many set-backs but the objective and road map must be very clear.
One cannot but be reminded of George Orwell (1894) as he aptly stated:
“The object of terrorism is terrorism. The object of oppression is oppression. The object of torture is torture. The object of murder is murder. The object of power is power. Now do you begin to understand me?”
The writer is a lawyer, academic and political analyst. She has authored a book, ‘A Comparative Analysis of Media and Media Laws in Pakistan.’