After a lull of a few months, the country was once again rocked by a deadly explosion on November 2nd, at the border village of Wagah. The target of the attack was the border post closing ceremony, held routinely at the only land crossing between Pakistan and India. This was not the first targeted terror attack since the commencement of the military operation in North Waziristan but the most deadly, nonetheless, as regards the number of civilian casualties incurred.
The attack in which 62 people lost their lives and around 200 got injured occurred on the 8th of Muharram – a time when the security arrangements across the country are beefed up generally, due to sensitivity of the Ashura days of the holy month of Muharram. The attacks that occur during Muharram are customarily sectarian in nature but in case of the Wagah attack, no sectarian link was established or claimed.
Three different militant outfits claimed responsibility for the attack, the first being Jundullah; soon afterwards, the TTP splinter group, Jamat-ul-Ahrar and later a lesser known outfit called the Mahar Mehsud group accepted responsibility. It is interesting to point out that it is not the first time that the responsibility for a terror attack was claimed by two or more different terrorist organizations. Most terrorist outfits are merely names to achieve different ends. The assertion over terrorist activities serves many different purposes for these militant organizations. It can be a recruitment gambit to attract or engage new members and/or to avoid backlash from sympathizers that are ever present within our society.
As far as the Jundullah is concerned, it has often represented the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan in the past, especially the Mohmand faction of the TTP, that has now splintered to form the TTP Jamat-ul-Ahrar (TTPJuA), headed by Omer Khalid khorasani. These two groups are similar in the sense that they have same ideology, goals, involvement in targeted sectarian activities and have close ties with the Al-Qaeda. They have simultaneously accepted responsibility for terror attacks previously also, such as in the case of the ISI-Sukkur headquarter attack, the Peshawar church blast and the Gilgit tourist killings, to name a few.
An attack happening in Muharram, which is not sectarian in nature; in an area, where the two main organizations, who declared their involvement, have never operated before, and especially at a time of increasing border tension between India and Pakistan, raises many perplexing questions. Is it about the success of Zarb-e-Azb? which has been established beyond doubt; the militants finally feeling the crunch and trying to assert themselves by hitting soft targets or perhaps it is a major shift in their policy and they are trying to enlarge their theater of war by including the whole region and in particular, focusing on India? Both these analysis are quite mainstream and have been presented by both the national and international media.
Zarb-e-Azb has no doubt fractured the backbone of the militants, pushing them into a corner and cutting them down to size. Pakistan’s success in curbing the menace of terrorism in the country has created unrest in the TTP and Al-Qaida network’s handlers. The TTP has splintered into different factions, many of them reduced to just being “militias” of foreign handlers, instead of groups upholding the ideology of Islamic Jihad. The once formidable Punjabi Taliban (Asmatullah Muawiya group), formally surrendered to the Pakistani security forces in August this year and announced to shift their focus to Afghanistan. The Pakistani authorities had vowed to clear the menace of terrorism from the country, saying they will target all the terror organizations in the country, including the Haqqani network. Recently in a statement, a top US general, Lt. Gen. Joe Anderson said, the Haqqani network has been fractured, owing to the efforts of the Pakistan military and the operation in North Waziristan.
The news of the alleged presence of the IS in the region and efforts to establish a connection between the TTP factions and IS by Indian authorities and some overzealous Pakistani analysts, does not have any factual basis. It is utterly nonsensical to consider it on the basis of wall chalking and rumors. The TTP factions are at one hand considered to be allies of Al-Qaeda and on the other are supposed to be liaising with the ISIS. Perhaps it is India’s wish to alert the world to the presumed growing presence of the IS in the region, especially in its neighborhood, and the horrors it can unleash. Tomorrow if some major terror attack happens in any part of India, it may conveniently put the blame on Pakistan.
The emergence of the Al-Qaeda South-Asia branch, the TTPJuA accepting the responsibility for the Wagah attack, emergence of the IS, all but point towards creating a sinister plan of an alleged terror consortium taking place in Pakistan and subsequently to put pressure on Pakistan to give up on major policy factors related to Afghanistan, Kashmir and India. It is not merely a coincidence that all this is surfacing prior to the US’ pullout from Afghanistan and the Pakistan Army Chief’s visit to the United States. Perhaps it will be pertinent to ponder at this point what India gains from continuous unrest in Pakistan.
Our analysts, anchors and media should act responsibly. Instead of highlighting half baked truths about the emergence of IS and the TTP’s capability of hitting inside India, they should focus on investigating matters with a realistic approach.
India should get its own house in order instead of meddling in Afghanistan and Iran. India’s discomfort can be felt because of the new generation of the Kashmiri resistance. Prime Minister Modi has already begun the process to abrogate article 370 of the Indian constitution that grants special status to Jammu and Kashmir. On the other hand, Ajit Doval, the man behind India’s national security policy, is the new definition of India’s fanaticism. India needs to settle these disputes and put a stop to atrocities against the Kashmiri people. The chaos in Pakistan has its spillover effects. This is where India’s policy makers are laying a foundation for a policy full of blunders for their state and their nation. Will the stakeholders involved in the region make policies that spell peace or will they bring further destruction; this remains to be seen.
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