Saturday, December 20, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Dec 21, 2014

Hangings, et al As expected, the executions of convicted terrorists have begun. On Friday, two were hanged in Faisalabad District Jail amidst tight security. Mohammad Aqeel, alias Dr Usman, and Arshad Mehmood were sent to the gallows for the attack on GHQ on October 10, 2009 and the attempted assassination of former general and president Pervez Musharraf in late 2003 respectively. Both were convicted by military courts. The government has given the go-ahead to all Inspector Generals of Police to execute 22 more terrorism convicts on death row. This brings the total likely to be executed to 85. In addition, the interior ministry is examining 378 more such cases. These convicts have exhausted their appeals procedure. Some of them had filed mercy appeals to the president, which are now likely to be rejected, clearing the way for them to have their date with the hangman’s noose. Prisons all over the country have been placed on high alert in anticipation of possible Taliban attacks to break their colleagues out of jails, as happened in the past in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), not unexpectedly, has threatened revenge for these hangings. The list of executed or to be executed terrorists reveals once more the extent to which the armed forces had been infected by jihadist ideology, the explanation for why so many former armed forces personnel fell under the sway of al Qaeda and the Taliban’s worldview. The attacks on Musharraf and GHQ, for example, could not have been carried out by such elements without insider help. In many other instances too, suspicion persists that attacks on highly guarded military bases and installations could not have occurred without collaborators on the inside. Reports say the armed forces have been purged of all such elements over the years. One hopes so, since now that the armed forces are fully engaged in a fight to the finish against the terrorists, they should not have to keep looking over their shoulders. Prime Minister (PM) Nawaz Sharif chaired a high level meeting on the renewed security strategy in GHQ on Friday, where it was decided that there would be no leniency towards terrorists and tough steps would be taken against them. COAS General Raheel Sharif urged the government to speed up executions of convicted terrorists. The PM extended an assurance in this regard. He also promised all necessary resources and cooperation to the drive against terrorism, and all the required amendments to anti-terror laws. It was decided that civil-military intelligence sharing would be strengthened. General Raheel briefed the PM on his recent Afghanistan visit. The meeting decided to enhance security on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. The ongoing operations in North Waziristan and Khyber Agency will be expanded to the Tirah Valley and other tribal areas in the next stage. Already, ground and air forces have hit the terrorists hard in Khyber and Kurram Agencies, inflicting 62 deaths on the terrorists, a foreign Taliban commander and his colleagues have been killed in Ziarat District in Balochistan, and several have been captured during all these stepped up operations. Military courts are being set up to try terrorists in an effort to speed up disposal of their cases, although many have reservations about the less than satisfactory due process in such courts. Trilateral US/Afghan/Pakistani operations on either side of the border are planned, although there will be no hot pursuit across the border from either side. Meanwhile the committee of political parties’ representatives charged with creating an action plan decided on Friday to set up an experts group to provide input into the new strategy. This experts group was supposed to meet on Saturday, forward its recommendations to the committee on Monday, to be reviewed by Tuesday. Those criticising the seven day period given to the committee to prepare what many thought should have been done years ago may be surprised to note that the committee is moving with extraordinary dispatch. Judgement on its final outcome must await its final proposals. The galvanisation of the political class, the military and citizens at large in the wake of the Peshawar massacre of schoolchildren is unprecedented. In the middle of all this positivity to rise to the challenge of terrorism, Lal Masjid Islamabad’s khateeb Maulana Abdul Aziz (of the fleeing in a burka fame) sticks out like a sore thumb for his effort to defend the TTP and refrain from condemning the Peshawar tragedy. Civil society and ordinary citizens, appalled at this blatant insensitivity and unacceptable partisanship for the terrorists have taken the Maulana to task. Given Lal Masjid and the Maulana’s role in creating the whole fracas that led to the formation of the TTP in 2007, at the very least he should be removed as khateeb, at best he should be put away where he can do no further harm.

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