Thursday, April 10, 2014

Daily Times Editorial April 11, 2014

The case of the exploding guavas The bomb explosion in the wholesale and fruit market on the periphery of Islamabad on Wednesday yielded a gory casualty count because of the crowded nature of the venue. At last count, 24 people were killed (some torn to shreds by the blast) and over 129 injured. The temporary distraction of the United Baloch Army’s claim of responsibility aside, the Taliban went to some lengths to deny any part in the carnage. The spokesman of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Shahidullah Shahid waxed indignant, calling it tragic that innocents were killed and that such attacks are haram (forbidden). One must say the TTP has a very developed sense of irony, since it is not exactly innocent when it comes to killing innocent people by all manner of grisly means. The attack came a day before the extended ceasefire of the TTP was to expire. On Thursday reports spoke of the Taliban leadership meeting amidst calls by some factions for renewing attacks in the face of the government’s enigmatic ‘silence’ and slow progress on the TTP’s demands. Ending the ceasefire would simply remove the fig leaf of an ostensible ceasefire in the middle of what increasingly appears to be a TTP tactic of ‘fighting while talking’. While this may have become obvious to a great many people, the government continues to insist on its talks strategy’s ‘successes’. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar is by now wholly adept at issuing hollow statements after every tragedy of this kind that the perpetrators will be brought to justice and compensation paid to the victims. One may be justified in asking; have the perpetrators of the Islamabad courts attack been apprehended? How much compensation has been paid to the victims of that attack? The interior minister is increasingly coming in for flak, not the least by the opposition, including the Leader of the Opposition Syed Khursheed Shah, who has taunted the interior minister on his claim that Islamabad is a ‘safe city’. Information Minister Pervaiz Rasheed on the other hand has a novel take on the event. He thinks the space for the terrorists has been squeezed by the government’s talks strategy, that is why people who would normally have been thought to be behind such incidents (the TTP, for example) are denying any role. If that thought brings comfort to the information minister and helps him sleep more soundly, good luck to him, but the rest of the citizens of Pakistan are not convinced by this line of reasoning. Denial has very much been part and parcel of the TTP’s arsenal since the talks process began. Attacks have not ceased despite the so-called ceasefire, and it is the citizens who continue to suffer from the inability of the government to see through the TTP’s ruse. As to the blast itself, it is being reported that the bomb was placed in some crates containing guavas transported from Sharaqpur. The Sheikhupura police has claimed the arrest of the goods transport company’s owner and his son, and is said to be gathering details on nine guava farms in the area (no doubt to assess their respective fruits’ sweetness). With due respect, neither the police nor the government seem to have a handle on the nature and character of the terrorism facing the country. Nor does their head-in-the-sand attitude to dealing with the terrorists inspire much confidence. Peace is desirable for all of us in this benighted land, but peace cannot be had by merely wishing for it, or beggars would ride. Even its erstwhile close ally in supporting the talks process, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf has now come out with a critique of the government’s inability to protect citizens. The task of tackling terrorism and jihadi insurgency, protecting the people and the country’s assets is inherently a difficult task. But the government’s approach of handing the initiative to the terrorists through the show of ‘ceasefires’, ‘talks’ and ‘peace’, when none of these descriptions fit the bill, has meant an inherently difficult task has been rendered all but impossible. The government would be well served by listening to the security forces’ advice on the correct strategy against the terrorists, particularly since the very effective strikes against them that made them sue for a ceasefire have demonstrated the capability of the armed and security forces to root out the problem once and for all. The restraining hand of the government must be tempered by such professional advice.

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