INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM MONITOR---PAPER NO 656
In a daring attempt to free a captured terrorist Moaz alias Amir Muavia, who was undergoing treatment for injuries in the Jinnah Hospital of Lahore, a group of at least four terrorists wearing police uniforms raided the hospital on the night of May 31,2010, and killed three policemen guarding the terrorist and a woman. The police claim that they could not succeed in freeing the injured terrorist and withdrew from the hospital after an exchange of fire lasting about 90 minutes with police reinforcements, which were rushed to the hospital. The terrorists managed to flee from the hospital in an armoured personnel carrier belonging to the police. After driving the APC for some distance, the terrorists abandoned it and escaped on foot.
2. Moaz alias Amir Muavia, whom they wanted to free, belonged to two groups of terrorists which had raided two mosques of Ahmadis on May 28 during which they killed over 80 Ahmadis praying in the mosques. Moaz, believed to be a Pashtun, was injured and was captured by the police. Another terrorist, reported to be a Punjabi, was also captured, but he was not admitted in hospital as he did not sustain any injuries. On coming to know of the admission of Moaz in the Jinnah Hospital, the terrorists raided it, but could not succeed in freeing him, if the police version is to be believed.
3. Even if the raid did not achieve the objective of the terrorists, the fact that they were able to get information about where the injured terrorist had been admitted for treatment, organize a raid within three days of his admission, engage the police in an exchange of fire and escape in an APC captured from the police speaks disturbingly of the high level of motivation and training of the terrorists and the poor motivation and training of the police.
4.Talking to pressmen before the incident in the hospital, Mr.Rehman Malik, the Interior Minister, had blamed the so-called Punjabi Taliban for the massacre of the Ahmadis and talked of a possible military action in Southern Punjab, which is their stronghold, in order to neutralize the growing threat from them.
5. When he talked of the Punjabi Taliban, he meant the Sipah-e-Sahaba (SES), the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM). He did not speak of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET), the Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the 313 Brigade of Ilyas Kashmiri as part of the Punjabi Taliban.
6. The SES and the LEJ are Sunni extremist organizations which have been attacking the Shias for over 20 years and have now been operating jointly with Al Qaeda and the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). They have shifted their bases from Southern Punjab to North Waziristan in the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The JEM was born in 2000 as the result of a split in the HUM. It used to be close to the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), but fell out with the Pakistan Army because of the support extended by Gen.Pervez Musharraf to the US. It was suspected of involvement in the two unsuccessful assassination attempts on Musharraf in Rawalpindi in December,2003. After the raid into the Lal Masjid in Islamabad by commandoes of the Special Services Group (SSG) of the Pakistan Army in July 2007, it has started operating jointly with the TTP. It has also shifted its bases from southern Punjab to North Waziristan.
7. Though these three organizations now operate from North Waziristan, they continue to get a regular flow of Punjabi volunteers and funds from the mosques and madrasas controlled by them in Southern Punjab. They also get sanctuaries in these mosques and madrasas whenever they organize attacks in Lahore and other places in the Punjab.
8. The Government of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) of Mr.Nawaz Sharif, which has been in power in Punjab under the Chief Ministership of Mr.Shabaz Sharif, a brother of Mr.Nawaz, has allegedly not been co-operating with the federal Government in Islamabad headed by the Pakistan People’s Party of President Asif Ali Zardari in taking action against the elements of the Punjabi Taliban which have been collaborating with Al Qaeda and the TTP.
9. One is seeing a situation similar to what one had seen between 1988 and 1990 when Mrs.Benazir Bhutto was the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Mr.Nawaz Sharif was the Chief Minister of Punjab. The anti-Shia terrorists against whom Mrs.Benazir sought to take action were given shelter by the Punjab Special Branch allegedly on the orders of Mr.Nawaz Sharif. It was during that period that the LEJ evolved into a dreaded anti-Shia organization without any action being taken against it by the Punjab Police. Though there is no evidence of any nexus between the JEM and the PML (N), there has been a long history of nexus between elements in the PML (N) and the LEJ. It is suspected that this nexus continues even now and that is how the LEJ is repeatedly able to operate in Punjab with impunity.
10. The FATA comes under the direct control of the federal Government, which is able to undertake military operations there without having to rely on the consent from any local administration. The federal Government has to depend on the consent and co-operation of the PML(N) Government in Lahore for undertaking any major operation in Southern Punjab. It is alleged that this co-operation has not been forthcoming in adequate measure.
11. Mr.Zardari’s efforts to strengthen the role of the police and the Intelligence Bureau in internal security matters have made some headway in Sindh, but not in Punjab where the local police, controlled by the PML (N), has frustrated the efforts of the IB to develop a good network of agents capable of collecting intelligence about the Punjabi Taliban.
12. The result: Punjab in general and Lahore in particular continue to bleed ( 1-6-10)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )