Fast forward to
the present. After bloody protests starting late October that killed more policemen, the government seemed to gird itself. The Pakistani Rangers were deployed in the affected provinces, and the National Security Committee designated the group as a terrorist
organisation, decided to use all means to stop them, and blamed India, social media and
unnamed journalists (in that order).
On 29 October, National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf was warning against the group crossing “a red line”. Two days later, the government announced a deal, the details of which remain secret. The group was to be removed from the Proscribed List, cadres were
released, all done in ‘national interest’. Notably, negotiators declared that the
Army Chief could be given a “thousand per cent” credit for the deal.
One notification probably explains this astonishing turn of events. On 26 October, the Prime Minister’s office announced the appointment of a new Director-General of the Inter-Services Intelligence (DG ISI), Nadeem Anjum. But Lt Gen Faiz Hameed, the
incumbent, would continue to hold office till 19 November. That smacks of a deal, since the saga of the appointment of a new ISI Chief has been going on since August, with Imran Khan desperately wanting the retention of Hameed but the Army insisting otherwise,
all of which had the whole country agog with speculation. So no, this is not over. Not by a long chalk.
Take a look at the negotiating team that included not only Foreign
Minister Qureshi (presumably due to his religious status as a Sajjada
Nashin and his own ambitions), but also Mufti Muneeb, a power broker, forcibly ousted from the Ruet-i-Hilal Committee for
his extreme views, Maulana Bashir Farooqi of the Saylani Trust that is said to spend some PKR
10 million a month on projects including education (The Trust’s Facebook page is locked), and a businessman Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, a long-time friend of Imran Khan. Two parliamentarians were also part of the group.
So, religious clerics, the Army, and Khan’s pals got together to sort things out. That’s a pretty mixed bunch.
Terrorists Next Door
Even as all this drama was ongoing, Khan
admitted that his government was in “talks” with the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group that created chaos in the country for years till the Pakistan army launched a series of military operations against them, which included bombing whole
villages in tribal areas. Their cadres retreated to Afghanistan, but have again started violent operations following the Taliban “victory”.
True, he is the ‘acting’ Interior Minister, but this is a bilateral
“deal” where a US-designated terrorist is being used to negotiate with another terrorist group with a country that harbours more terrorists than there are anywhere else in the world. It shocked even Pakistan’s which summoned the Prime Minister demanding to know why he was negotiating with a group which among other acts, had killed 132 children in the Peshawar Army
school attack in 2014.
So, consider. The TLP is now a major political force, and after being the third-largest political party in Punjab, it will probably make strides
across other provinces. The fact that it got where it is due to the ISI using it to get rid of an elected government, and then in an Army power struggle, is only a part of the story.
The journey of the TLP from a marginal group led by an unknown cleric to one whose message now resounds across Pakistan is indicative that blasphemy and other extreme issues will now be central to the political noise in the upcoming elections. But while
religion was the chariot, the wheels were greased by those in power who find it entirely acceptable to treatise and dialogue with terrorist groups of every hue. Prepare for the truly terrorist TTP to come to elections next. One of them has already been fielded
in the elections in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir
on a reserved seat. More will come. Welcome to the new normal, where terrorists, sponsors, and legislators are difficult to distinguish from the other.
13 Nov 21/Saturday
Written By: Thequint