the Taliban 'conglomerate'
all banned outfits and organisations are involved in terrorist
We have been here before. After a never-ending series of terrorist attacks in NWFP and Fata, it was Lahore's turn which saw two bloody suicide attacks after a gap of some months and the deadliest of suicide blasts in the Moon Market. The targets apparently were security personnel but the collateral damage far exceeded that. The crackers that terrorised the residents of Allama Iqbal Town in particular and the city in general are believed to be a handiwork of another organisation and had no connection with the other two major blasts that claimed scores of innocent lives. This organisation aims to act as the moral police in the city and has been involved in similar such incidents in the past.
Together, these blasts left the city shaking with fear, as indeed was the aim.
So, we've been here before. Each time we have delved into the reality of Punjabi Taliban and their links with Tehreek-e-Taliban and al-Qaeda. We've spoken with ambivalence about South Punjab as the hotbed of extremism from where all terrorist activity might henceforth emerge.
This time the many mysteries of the past appear to have been settled. Analysts and government speak with an air of finality about the solid connections between the various terrorist groups. The lull, albeit short-lived, has allowed them to do some serious research. Amir Mir, in his detailed analysis, speaks of the "triangular syndicate of militancy involving the Punjabi and the Pushtun Taliban, al-Qaeda and several Deobandi-Sunni sectarian and jihadi organisations" which is launching suicide bomb attacks against the security forces "accusing them of sliding with the forces of the infidels."
They obviously want to be equated with the Taliban in Afghanistan who have successfully developed a broad-based consensus against the occupation forces. A large number of Afghan people empathise with this agenda of the Taliban. This, however, is not true for the TTP as it continues to bomb Pakistani cities and kills its own security personnel as well as civilians.
The consensus that was effected in the parliament against the TTP's agenda was laid to rest by the recent statement of Punjab Chief Minister that sought to endorse the Taliban ideology. A political storm was raised in response, thus bringing to light PML-N's credentials and ideology as a political party.
All these recent political developments around militancy form a part of today's Special Report.
Punjab, the new epicentre
The Punjabi Taliban are believed to have spread their tentacles across the province through the networks of sectarian organisations, the veterans of Jihad-e-Kashmir and those of Jihad-e-Afghanistan
By Amir Mir
The recent spate of bloody suicide bombings in Lahore, the iconic city of the ruling Punjabi establishment, suggests that after being driven out of Swat and South Waziristan in the wake of two successful military operations, the Punjabi and the Pushtun Taliban have made Punjab the new epicentre of their battle against the Punjab-dominated military establishment in its own heartland -- which was earlier known for having produced several Sunni Deobandi sectarian organisations as well as numerous anti-India militant groups to wage jihad in Jammu and Kashmir.
Investigations by the Pakistani authorities abundantly make it clear that the Taliban-led insurgency has penetrated into the urban areas of Punjab and that most of the recent terrorist attacks targeting the security forces and the law enforcement agencies in the province were actually coordinated operations jointly carried out by the Punjabi Taliban with the assistance of their Pushtun 'brethren'.
Those investigating the March 8, 2010 car suicide bombings targeting the Special Intelligence Unit (SIU) office in Model Town area of Lahore, followed by twin suicide attacks targeting the security forces vehicles in the Cantonment area of Lahore on March 12, are of the view that most of these attacks have been carried out by the Punjabi Taliban belonging to several Sunni Deobandi sectarian-cum-jihadi groups which are working in tandem with the Pushtun-dominated Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
The investigations show that the Pushtun Taliban, who are in search of new havens after being evicted from the Pak-Afghan tribal belt, in the wake of the ongoing military operation there coupled with unending American drone attacks, have teamed up with local militant groups in Punjab and brought their war to the most populous and prosperous province of the country, which is home to the General Headquarters (GHQ) of the Pakistan Army, the headquarters of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) and many key nuclear installations. Therefore, a triangular syndicate of militancy involving the Punjabi and the Pushtun Taliban, al-Qaeda and several Deobandi-Sunni sectarian and jihadi organisations currently seems to be at work and carrying out fidayeen-style suicide bombings against the Pakistani security forces, accusing them of siding with the forces of the infidel in the war against terror.
Previously, the Punjab-based militant and sectarian organisations which were either 'waging jihad' in Jammu and Kashmir or carrying out sectarian killings in the country, had confined their role to facilitating the Pushtun Taliban coming from the tribal belt and the NWFP by providing them logistical support for conducting terrorist operations. However, recent investigations reveal that many of these largely South Punjab-based jihadi and sectarian groups have now become entangled with al-Qaeda-linked militants who are currently operating under the banner of the TTP.
Perhaps the best explanation of the Punjabi Taliban's organisational structure is given by Tariq Pervez, the chief of the National Counterterrorism Authority (NACTA): "Ideas, logistics and cash come from the Gulf. Arab guys, mainly Egyptians and Saudis, are on hand to provide the chemistry. Punjabi extremists plot the attacks, while the Pushtun Taliban provide the martyrs."
In fact, there were only two familiar types of Taliban in this region until recently -- the Taliban of Afghanistan and the Pakistani ones. Although both kinds of Taliban shared the same philosophy and culture due to their Pushtun connection, they differed in goals. But it now appears that the Pakistani Taliban have revised their strategy and adopted the one being pursued by their al-Qaeda-linked Afghan counterparts, challenging the state with a view to pull it down. The Taliban family apparently got extended with the dawn of the year 2009 with a new addition of the 'Punjabi Taliban' which has since been operating its 'franchises' in Punjab under the banner of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Punjab.
As a result, Lahore had to suffer three major suicide attacks in 2009, resulting in 101 killings, including 80 civilians and 21 security forces personnel. The same year, the Lahorites also witnessed three fidayeen-cum-suicide attacks carried out by the Punjabi-Pushtun Taliban duo: the first one targeting a luxury bus carrying the visiting Sri Lankan cricket team (on March 3, 2009, killing seven people); the second one targeting the Police Training Centre in Manawan near Lahore with guns and grenades (on March 30, 2009, killing eight police recruits); and the third one targeting the provincial headquarters of the ISI before detonating a vehicle loaded with 100 kilograms of explosives at its main entrance (on May 27, 2009, killing 28 people, including a serving colonel of the ISI and 15 police officials).
In addition to these attacks, the first two and a half months of 2010 (January 1 to March 15) have already seen three major suicide car bombings in the Punjab capital, killing 83 people in the posh urban localities of Model Town and Cantonment areas. Two ferocious suicide assaults in Lahore over a gap of three days in the second week of March have clearly demonstrated that Lahore is literally under siege by the Taliban network which is striking at will. Investigations show that the March 8 suicide bombing targeting the Model Town office of the Punjab Police's Special Investigation Unit (SIU) in Lahore, where hardened sectarian and jihadi terrorists were being interrogated, was carried out by the Punjabi Taliban to avenge the killings of their two key commanders. The first one was Commander Qari Zafar, the acting ameer of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, who was killed in a US drone strike in North Waziristan on February 24, 2010 while the second one was Dr Mauz alias Omar Kundi, formerly associated with the Lashkar-e-Taiba but lately heading a breakaway group of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, called Fidayeen-e-Islam which had links with al-Qaeda operatives in Pakistan.
Qari Zafar was wanted by the American and Pakistani authorities for his alleged involvement in the March 2, 2006 car bombing outside the US consulate in Karachi which had killed three people including an American diplomat David Foy, thus making the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) to announce a $5 million bounty on his head. Originally coming from Karachi, Qari Zafar had already joined hands with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and was heading Fidayeen-e-Islami which is blamed for carrying out a series of bloody fidayeen attacks in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad in 2009, including the October 10, 2009 assault on the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. The only fidayeen attacker captured alive after the GHQ assault was a Punjabi Taliban Mohammad Aqeel alias Dr Usman, who was a key member of the LeJ and a close associate of Zafar. He was last seen alive with Hakeemullah Mehsud at a press conference somewhere in South Waziristan on October 17, 2009, when the TTP chief had appeared before the media to refute reports of his death in infighting. Speaking on the occasion, Hakeemullah said commanders like Qari Zafar had formally joined hands with the TTP and hundreds of their suicide bombers were waiting for their turn to hit targets in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Consequently, a series of deadly fidayeen attacks was carried out in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Islamabad, including the October 10, 2009 assault on the General Headquarters of the Pakistan Army in the garrison town of Rawalpindi. Subsequent investigations by Pakistani authorities revealed that these stunning commando-style terrorist attacks were jointly coordinated by Qari Zafar and Qari Hussain Mehsud, a first cousin of Hakeemullah Mehsud and also key commander of the TTP, better known in the Taliban circles as Ustaad-e-Fidayeen (Teacher of suicide bombers). Qari Hussain, who used to run his suicide training camp in the Spinkai Ragzai area of South Waziristan before the start of the military operation there, is known in the TTP ranks for his strong anti-Shia views and close ties with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi.
The GHQ attack was reportedly carried out by the Punjabi Taliban to avenge the August 2009 killing of Commander Baitullah Mehsud, in an American drone attack in South Waziristan. While confirming Qari Zafar's death in a statement faxed to local journalists on February 25, 2010, a Lashkar-e-Jhangvi spokesman had described him as a martyr and pledged to avenge his death, too. "The mujahideen will take revenge from the Pakistani authorities for his killing by resorting to suicide bombings all over the country," the spokesman added.
Another deceased Punjabi Taliban commander, Dr Mauz alias Omar Kundi, had masterminded the March 2009 truck suicide attack on the provincial headquarters of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) in Lahore and the May 2009 wagon suicide bombing, targeting the Lawrence Road headquarters of the ISI in Lahore. He had reportedly discarded the Lashkar-e-Taiba after developing differences with Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the chief operational commander of the LeT, in the aftermath of the July 2007 Operation Silence conducted by the Pakistan Army in the heart of Islamabad against the fanatic clerics of the infamous Lal Masjid.
Mauz later joined the ranks of the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. Claiming responsibility for the March 12 twin suicide attacks in the Cantonment area, TTP spokesman Azam Tariq declared: "The attack was meant to avenge the assassination of Commander Mauz Shaheed in Faisalabad, the ongoing US drone attacks in Waziristan and the Pakistani military operations in the Tribal Areas. We have 2,800 to 3,000 more suicide bombers... We will target all government places, buildings and offices."
Those studying the phenomenon of the Punjabi Taliban believe they have actually spread their tentacles across the province through the networks of sectarian organisations (like Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi) and the veterans of Jihad-e-Kashmir (like Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Taiba) and those of Jihad-e-Afghanistan (like Harkatul Jihadul Islami and Harkatul Mujahideen). A good number of activists of these largely Deobandi-Sunni organisations are increasingly supporting the Taliban elements from the Pakistani tribal regions to unleash bloody terrorism in sensitive urban cities such as Islamabad, Rawalpindi and Lahore. Those investigating the September 2008 truck suicide bombing targeting the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, which killed over 50 people, say all evidences of the bombing plan led to South Waziristan via Jhang, the birth place of the SSP, which is considered to be the parent organisation of the LeJ.
It is not possible to check terrorist activities without busting the infrastructural support to the militants
By Adnan Adil
Pakistan is faced with an insurgency that is led by the Taliban militants and supported by the followers of Osama bin Laden -- in other words, al-Qaeda -- in the tribal areas of the northwest region. But it is also a political movement and a guerilla warfare run by a Taliban 'conglomerate' which comprises the Afghan as well as Pakistani Taliban, al-Qaeda, their allied militant sectarian groups, mosques and seminaries affiliated with these groups, a section of the moneyed class, especially traders, a large number of religio-political parties and a large chunk of the country's Urdu-language media. The goal of this 'conglomerate' is to capture state power and, meanwhile, to create pockets which it can use as bases to launch operations in any part of the country.
Last week, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said publicly that the Punjabi Taliban were responsible for the ongoing spate of terror attacks in the country, a fact independent journalists -- mainly English-language press -- had been reporting for months. The minister also named at least two outlawed sectarian organisations, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, for being involved in dastardly acts of terrorism all over the country. He warned them of stern action if they did not stop. One might ask the minister if he was already aware of the involvement of these organisations in terrorism, what had stopped him from taking strong action against them.
Since summer 2009, army and the paramilitary force, the Frontier Corps (FC), are busy in operations against the Taliban militants in Swat, South Waziristan and other parts of the Fata, Pata and Frontier Regions of the seven districts of the NWFP province. In October last, the offensive against the militant sanctuary in South Waziristan stirred the hornet's nest. Since then, the Taliban and their affiliated groups are on a rampage. They have not considered even the ordinary citizens, universities, markets and mosques when targeting security officials and conducting bomb blasts.
The ease with which the Taliban and their allies choose their targets and strike them indicates their level of preparedness and deep roots in the society. It is clear from the recent bombings that the Taliban conglomerate has the capability that was either underestimated or ignored by our security establishment. These attacks demonstrate that: a) despite killings in the operations in the tribal areas, the Taliban conglomerate has a constant stream of new recruits who are motivated, brainwashed and willing to die for their cause; b) the conglomerate has training centres where the motivated young men are given military training so that they can survey their targets and plan attacks; c) it has the constant supply of weapons and explosives to carry out bombings; d) it has the means of transportation and safe routes to carry ammunition from one part of the country to another; e) it has safe places to hide the weapons and the explosives in almost all the cities, be it Lahore, Faisalabad, Karachi or Dadu; f) it has enough money to carry out its activities; g) it has hidden supporters everywhere who provide them with the boarding and lodging so that the bombers can stay there till the completion of their mission; and, finally, it has an organised line of communication and coordination among the various parts of the conglomerate.
How can the police or the intelligence agencies arrest a suspected bomber who is not staying at a hotel or in a guest house? The members of the Taliban conglomerate do not need to go to hotels; they just put up at the houses of their friends/allies or in the seminaries or hujras of the affiliated mosques. They need not to worry about buying a SIM for a cell phone or a motorbike or a car for transportation; they are catered for famously well by the non-militant allies.
The police, on the other hand, do not have the strength or the capacity to conduct raids and inspect every suspected place -- mosque, seminary or the house of a local religious leader or an activist. The supporting infrastructure of militants is far bigger than that of the security establishment, especially the police and the intelligence agencies. In fact, it is not possible to check terrorist activities without busting the infrastructural support to the militants.
The affiliate groups of the Taliban recruit young people from the poor and deprived sections of the society and prepare them ideologically for militancy (or terrorism). Major support comes from the millionaires and the middle class people in big cities such as Lahore and Karachi who provide funds if not for the militant groups but to their allied groups. The (apparently) non-militant clerics create an enabling environment by creating confusion and doubts about the real culprits and placing the blame on imaginary foreign hands, thereby creating a justification by showing the murderers as heroes waging a war against the imperial West.
Moreover, there are apologists of the Taliban conglomerate in the media, who churn out columns after columns and talk shows after talk shows to hide its crimes and create further confusion.
The militants were created in the 1980s by the establishment to wage war in Afghanistan, to counter the expanding Iranian influence in Pakistan after the Khomeini revolution, to weaken mainstream political parties and, later, to support jihad in Kashmir. These sectarian militant forces, with their orthodox interpretation of religion and an anti-West worldview, have now gained enough strength to stand on their own. The ethos of Pakistan's middle- and lower-middle-class people is in support of the Taliban conglomerate. Only a tiny fragment of the society comprising the elite, the educated class and the religious minorities -- as well as the Shia sect -- is against this conglomerate. The large majority is fed on conspiracy theories and remains in a state of denial.
In these circumstances, the battle against the militancy is hard to win. The supporting infrastructure of terrorism is colossal and an action against it may trigger a countrywide uprising and violence on a larger scale that could be hard to control.
It is not practical to ban all seminaries and regulate all mosques. The security establishment can fight the Taliban conglomerate better by improving its Intelligence and learning from the experiences of other nations which faced a similar situation, such as Sri Lanka and Turkey. It seems the terror network cannot be eliminated in the short term but it could be weakened -- at least to some extent. Given the nature of Pakistan's state and the opposition of the world community, the Taliban conglomerate is also not in a position to capture state power but it has the potential to cause further bloodshed.
PML-N today is at a juncture where it has become only necessary to judge which side of the divide it stands by
By Farah Zia
The PML-N was still enjoying its success in the NA-55 by-election when the statement of Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif in Jamia Naeemia, supporting the Taliban ideology and finding a common cause between the Taliban and his own party, came as an embarrassing shock. The political storm that ensued was obviously not foreseen.
The damage control exercise turned out to be futile; one, because the statement was issued in the wake of a couple of horrible terrorist acts in the heart of Lahore killing scores of innocent people; and two, because people had not accepted the Provincial Law Minister Rana Sanaullah's defense regarding his joint campaign with a banned sectarian outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and its head Muhammad Ahmad Ludhianvi in the Jhang by-election for a provincial seat.
Shahbaz Sharif's statement and PML-N's conduct in Jhang have only helped dilute the national consensus against the Taliban brand of terrorism. Earlier on, the party, or its provincial government in Punjab to be precise, almost stayed in a state of denial about the militants' presence in the province which came to be articulated in the form of "Punjabi Taliban" as opposed to the Pashtun Taliban. Of course, it was reluctant to launch a crackdown against the jihadi elements which it did not believe existed in Punjab. It only supported the military operation against the militants in Swat and Fata when it had no other option left. It did not oppose the religious activism emanating from the Lal Masjid but condemned the operation launched against Lal Majid.
PML-N today stands at a juncture where it has become only necessary to judge which side of the divide it stands on to determine its ideological moorings. It is important because it can justifiably claim to be the second largest political party of the country with the distinction of having an ambivalent position on all key issues confronting the state and society, particularly since the Feb 2008 general election.
The historical roots of PML-N's ideology can be traced more recently in the political legacy of Ziaul Haq which was all about Islamisation through state and hence its alliance with conservative social trends. But it has a deeper historical connection with the post-partition Pakistan Muslim League which was a nationalist party with a right leaning vote bank. "It is this vote bank that the PML-N cannot afford to ignore or annoy," says noted political analyst Suhail Warraich who is the author of many books on political parties in Pakistan. It is this consideration that has forced the party to have a "peripheral" [read noncommittal] stance on various issues, according to Warraich. It advocates dialogue with the Taliban and votes in favour of the military operation in the National Assembly almost at the same time, he says.
Prof. Rasul Bux Rais prefers to call it "ambiguity" and agrees that it is because of considerations of electoral politics. "But," he adds, "it also owes itself to the ideological propensity, attitude or orientation of the person of Mian Nawaz Sharif who, in 1997, was going to place before the parliament the Shariat bill which would have been the second instalment of Ziaul Haq's Islamic laws."
Ideological pulls apart, the fact remains that PML-N's ambiguity on various issues has won it huge electoral successes. So where is the compulsion to change? "Here the role of leadership and guidance come in. Where will all this lead to? They can't just go on repeating what the majority wants. They can stay within the parameters of right or left but are they trying to counter the extremist elements or aggravating the sectarian divide for instance. Is the PML-N really performing the role of a ruling party in waiting?" asks senior columnist Abbas Rashid.
There is a predominant view which holds that being a rightwing party, PML-N is perhaps better equipped to deal with the extremists. Warraich thinks this will only lead to "the spread of rightwing ideas in society." Rashid thinks it is pertinent to ask on whose terms they deal with the extremists.
Shahbaz Sharif's statement was deliberate, aimed at displaying "a political affinity with the religious right". But the section of religious right that he particularly addressed was the Taliban who have launched most deadly attacks on Pakistani cities and its citizens. The anti-imperialist connection that he was trying to make between the Afghan Taliban and the TTP and between TTP and PML-N backfired -- and for obvious reasons.
"Taliban in Afghanistan are a different phenomenon. They have a broader base and they have successfully projected the ISAF as the occupation forces and a lot of people support them in this. Here the TTP cannot justify the attacks in Lahore, Islamabad and Multan by saying they are against occupation forces," says Rashid.
All said and done and with its popularity graph sustained, PML-N has not been able to specify what in its view should be the basic parameters of society. It must come clear on how it views minorities, what is its position on women and violence and most importantly at this point -- Taliban. "The response to Shahbaz Sharif's statement meant that any such attitude which is remotely supportive of extremists will be politically costly and punished. Pakistan today is a different society where these issues are still being contested," says Rais.
-- Rana Sanaullah, Provincial Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs
By Waqar Gillani
The News on Sunday: How do you view the 'Punjabi Taliban' and their reported role in attacks in the province?
Rana Sanaullah: A specific lobby is, intentionally or unintentionally, popularising the term 'Punjabi Taliban', when there is actually no Punjabi or Sindhi or Sarhadi among Taliban; they are all terrorists. However, nothing should be taken to mean that we believe in their dogma or mission. Let me state that we do not support their efforts to destabilise Pakistan and spread terrorism in the country.
Having said that, it should be understood that the roots of these Taliban cannot be traced in a single geographical area or language. Their existence is based on an ideology -- which is actually a misinterpretation of Islam.
TNS: There is a perception that many banned outfits like Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan and Jaish-e-Muhammad are part of these 'Punjabi Taliban'?
RS: We cannot say that all banned outfits and organisations are involved in terror activities. But after these organisations were banned some of their elements joined extremist groups like Taliban and went to Waziristan to take part in the war on terror. Now, it is not that easy or useful to lodge cases against all of them and arrest them. They are not here in Punjab. Besides, their arrest will serve no purpose. We cannot bracket all members of banned organisations together. For example, Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan was banned but, later, they formed Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and, eventually, Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnah. But we have no evidence against them. We apprehended the suspects but if no connection is established between Sipah-e-Sohaba and the others, how can we take action against them?
TNS: What about the investigations that maintained that LeJ had become a part of Taliban?
RS: Let me state that the people and organisations that were involved in Jihad-e-Afghanistan had a legal status and they received official training from the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) during that period. These jihadis were very dear to the government of the time. After the 'jihad' ended, not everyone turned into terrorists, but we can say that all those who did become terrorists were from these organisations. Now they are based in South Waziristan. We'll try to arrest them when they are here.
TNS: If you believe that all terrorists belong to banned outfits why does the Punjab government not admit this reality of Taliban from Punjab?
RS: I repeat that the terrorists come from different parts of Pakistan. If someone is in Lahore, should we name him as 'Lahori Taliban'? The Soviet-Afghan war saw jihadis coming from all over the world, including the Arab countries. Does that mean, we have had the 'Arab Taliban'? Terrorists are terrorists. They don't have any geography.
Secondly, Rehman Malik's statement is not rooted in reality. Is their a division among the ranks or wings of Taliban so that they should be placed geographically?
TNS: Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif's recent statement has met with a strong reaction from the general public. Do you really think Punjab has a reason why it should be spared by the Taliban?
RS: There is a media cell functioning in the Governor's House [in Lahore] and a private television channel which are constantly propagating against PML-N and its leadership. It was an obviously ill-intentioned -- though, failed -- attempt on the part of this media group to tarnish the image of PML-N. The CM made the much-tomtommed comment in a specific context. There was a question in a Geo TV programme about the attacks in Lahore and the CM responded to that only. His response was actually only a speculation where he said the Taliban were against foreign dictation and so is PML-N, so there is no reason for them to attack Punjab.
TNS: There is a general impression that PML-N has a soft corner for Islamic and religious groups and outfits. Even General (r) Musharraf said this at many places that Nawaz Sharif was very close to Taliban? What do you have to say about that?
RS: Let me say this once and for all that PML-N loves Islam and that we are close to all Islamic organisations that work for its true message which is tolerance, equality and peace. But we are against terrorism. That is why we supported operation in Waziristan. The CM [Punjab] also made this clear in the federal cabinet meeting held last week.
As far as Musharraf is concerned, PML-N believes he is responsible for all the chaos there is in the country and he is the biggest culprit. He bears grudges against Nawaz Sharif which is why he is making up such stories.
TNS: But the PML-N proved this soft corner when it made Sipah-e-Sahaba its ally in Jhang by-polls held in March. Comment.
RS: There is no existence of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan. Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi represents Jamaat-e-Ahl-e-Sunnah. Pakistan People's Party approached them so that it could benefit from their vote bank, and we did the same. Governor Punjab even went up to Bahawalnagar, seeking the support of these elements. Whereas we did this only to get their votes. Also, let me make this very clear that they are not terrorists. I can say on record that Allama Sajid Naqvi and Ahmad Ludhianvi are not terrorists. They (as persons) are not banned; it's their organisations that are banned. And, the constitution allows forming a new organisation when the previous one is banned. We know how Awami National Party was banned in Pakistan but it formed a new party. We have no proof against Ludhianvi or Sajid Naqvi being terrorists. When we have proof, we will act accordingly.
TNS: There have been a number of attacks in Punjab but no investigation findings have been made public yet. Why?
RS: These investigations cannot be made public. In fact, since all attacks are linked together, the investigations are an ongoing process and cannot be complete. Leakage of any investigation findings can help the terrorists.
TNS: Does the PML-N plan to launch a crackdown against Taliban in Punjab?
RS: We are taking action against all those elements that are part of Taliban. But the federal interior minister is giving irresponsible statements.
Payment as compensation against human life, injury or property damage is a heavy burden on the federal and provincial exchequers
Compensation against human life, injury or property damage as a result of bomb blasts and suicide attacks, has slapped a heavy burden on the federal and provincial exchequers.
According to a recent report by Asian Development Bank (ADB), Pakistan has seen 332-odd suicide attacks since 9/11 that killed 5,704 people and injured thousands besides damaging property worth billions of rupees. Conversely, the government has coughed up more than Rs 1.63 billion in the form of compensation to the four provinces and the capital territory hit by the militants, in the past two years.
The estimated loss of property runs into billions, the report says. The government has already paid a total of more than Rs 1627.803 million to the victims in different cities where the attacks occurred, against human and property loss.
An estimated property loss or damage in the NWFP has reached up to 68 billion. This loss exceeds Rs 18 billion in FATA.
The ADB report further reveals that Rs 440.12 million has been paid against 159 human lives in Punjab in the past two years. The amount in NWFP totals Rs 457.883 million against 744 deaths and 1,384 injured persons. In FATA, it is Rs 733.800 million against 1,623 causalities and 2,636 injured persons.
Naseem Ahmed, Executive District Officer (Works) of Lahore, tells TNS that the estimates of the compensation against property damages in the Model Town suicide blast that killed more than 15 people at the Special Intelligence Agency (SIA) office on March 8, 2010, are to the tune of Rs 189 million. The amount which will be paid to the victims against the deaths and injuries is in addition to this.
The compensation against human damages is assessed by the concerned Home Department of the province and will be awarded in due course of time, after getting approval from all relevant departments, Naseem adds.
The compensation, actually, involves many steps. A district-level team inspects the place and assesses the value of the damaged property. Reports are submitted to the district administrator which sends them up to the home department and then to the chief minister's office. The CM approves the compensation amount and sends it to the finance department. The finance department prepares cheques and sends them over to relevant districts through the home department, again. District authorities call the victims to their offices and give them cheques which are encashed in a specific branch of a government bank in every city.
A survey of the affected areas in Lahore shows how the victims or their families were compensated by the authorities. Iftikhar Hussain, a private security guard in a residential street near the twice attacked FIA headquarters in Lahore, tells TNS that he was witness to the first suicide attack at the FIA building in March 2008. "My leg was injured and I was taken to the hospital where a visiting government team enlisted me for compensation," he says, adding that he got the cheque worth Rs 100,000 some nine months later, which was encashed in a specified government bank."
Ahmad Ali, 40, a shopkeeper near Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), did not apply for the compensation when the government team inspected the site and conducted a survey to assess the damages. He says, "The impact of the blast affected my brain and eye sight. But I thank God for saving my life. I would not bother about money."
There are scores of blast victims and survivors who feature nowhere in the government's lists -- something for which the civil society is already showing a deep concern. Researcher and educationist Nadeem Omer Tarrar, who is also working with many human rights activists to form Pakistan Terrorists Survivors Network, wants a central authority and mechanism to identify and compensate the survivors of an attack. "There should be a central and separate agency other than civil defence and Rescue 1122 which should be given the task of collecting the identification evidences of blast victims," he tells TNS. "Unfortunately, many of them remain unidentified."
-- Waqar Gillani