In January the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) of Pakistan Raheel Sharif issued a statement that ISIS does not exist in Pakistan. Besides, he firmly announced that the terrorists will not be allowed to reorganise themselves in Pakistan. He was referring to a joint military operation that was launched on 15 June 2014 against various militants groups, including the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), in North Waziristan under the title ‘Zarb-e-Azb’. The Army forcibly got them out from Pakistan and they then flee to Afghanistan.
Astoundingly however independent observers were never content with such a large operation, especially in that US officials continually demanded from Pakistan that they do not spare the Haqqani Network – a powerful group of the TTP. In response to these demands the Pakistan Foreign Affair Adviser to the Prime Minister questioned why the government should go against all terrorists; some of them are not harming us.
However, there is no doubt that this operation has given the people of Pakistan a great breathing space but at the same time in retaliation, the Taliban attacked the Army Public School in Peshawar, killing 146 people including 134 pupils which plunged the nation into deep sorrow.
This attack created great anxiety and depression in the parents of pupils with a belief that a recurrence can happen in any city and in any school. Thus the Army, in response to this shocking act of the TTP, demanded they be given constitutional powers to combat terrorism.
The government and opposition parties through the National Assembly and Senate gave said demanded powers to the army for two years under the title National Action Plan (NAP) through a twenty first amendment in the Constitution of Pakistan in January 2015. The NAP received unprecedented levels of support and cooperation across the country’s political spectrum, inclusive of the federal and provincial governments.
People therefore had great expectations of the NAP and definitely wanted terrorism to become history, but this did not happen. Besides, with Operation Zarb-e-Azb, the terrorists just changed their location from North Waziristan to Afghanistan. However, their sequence of attacking has not reduced.
Nevertheless, despite public expectation and basic efforts that could have been made in changing Pakistan and making it more secure, the threat level in relation to attacks on schools has actually increased. People have started gossiping that they should send their pupils to Madrasas as at least their lives would then be guaranteed from any terrorist attacks.
Nothing can be taken for granted in the provisions of security. Therefore without any argument all of the public’s hopes have been aborted. In this situation there is more conflicting competition between the COAS, who is claiming that ISIS does not exist, and the Intelligence Bureau (IB) director general, Aftab Sultan, who informed the Senate Standing Committee on Interior on 11th February that ISIS was an emerging threat in the country, as many groups in Pakistan are supporting them.
He named LeJ and Sipah-e-Sahaba, now Ahle Sunnat Wal Jammat (ASWJ) Pakistan, as examples and warned that the country could see more terror attacks because it was not possible to completely eliminate terrorists in the next decade.
This was a surprising statement and symbolically countered the COAS statement.
Unexpectedly the next day the Foreign Office spokesman issued a statement, without naming the IB chief, and denied that an ISIS network exists in Pakistan. The same thing had been claimed by the Government’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar that ISIS does not exist. He did however at the same time accept that ISIS exists in the shape of franchised groups.
Such a statement is confusing and he is forever attempting to appear clever, in Pakistan he is likened to the British comic character Mr Bean. Besides he has always been perceived as a great supporter of militants in Pakistan following the law minister of the Punjab government Rana Sanaullah Khan and being very close to Nawaz Sharif‘s family.
Following these statements the army spokesman General Asim Bajwa when visiting Karachi and in a press conference declared that they have arrested around 97 terrorists who were planning to attack Hyderabad Central Prison to free Daniel Pearl’s killer Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. He also announced that terrorists wanted to kill 40 people before leaving the jail premises along with Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.
This news created more depression and uncertainty in the public with the idea that if a more secure central prison was under threat, then what could the rulers of Pakistan protect? More to the point, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh has since 2002 been waiting to be executed by hanging, and why has the decision not yet been implemented? If terrorists were planning to get him out how would it be possible due to the current geographic location of Hyderabad?
Besides, the army and military forces are only one-kilometer distance from the Central Prison where Daniel Pearl’s killer is currently being held.
Above all, after the terrorist attack on Bacha Khan University killing more than 20 students and other staff, rumours have peaked that such and such school has received threatening letters or phone calls. Thus, the provincial government of Punjab has closed schools, followed by Pakhtunkhwa, the same thing happening in Sindh when that province’s government refused to provide security to schools saying that it was not possible to give every school security.
After more than two weeks though schools are open but with more fearing activities as the army has put a banner on almost every school gate that in case of an emergency, call ’11 35′.
The school managements have increased private guards at every corner of the schools as well as guards watching from school roofs, which are upsetting scenes for school children as well as for parents. It looks like the country is at war. Parents of pupils can not be satisfied by these security measures as they know the militants are more trained and their nature of attacks is suicidal.
This is greatly disturbing and children are very depressed and not willing to go to school. However, the ruling class has to solve the issue: either ISIS exits or not in Pakistan.
Sattar Rind. Analista residente a Sindh esperto di Pakistan e della regione Asiatica meridionale, ha collaborato negli anni per diverse testate giornalistiche nazionali ed internazionali a partire dal 1991 ed ha scritto quattro libri (tre di poesia ed uno di politica). E’ possibile entrare in contatto con Mr Rind tramite il seguente indirizzo di posta elettronica firstname.lastname@example.org