Is he is or is he ain’t?
Predictably, in response to the Data Darbar attacks in Lahore, the government in Punjab made all the right noises about eradicating terrorism from the province. Earlier, Interior Minister Rehman Malik traded barbs with Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif on his use of the term “Punjabi Taliban.” The nomenclature did not sit well with the government in Punjab; the Taliban, they claimed, had no identity and references to Punjab hurt the sentiments of its residents.
Nonetheless, nominal steps were taken to curb extremism in the province. A news report in the Jang elaborated:
The Punjab Home Department has “banned” 17 organizations; these include Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, Sipah-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Tehrik-e-Jafria Pakistan, Tehrik-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammed, Millat-e-Islamiya Pakistan, Islamiya Tehrik-e-Pakistan, Hizb-ul-Tehrir, Jamaat-ul-Ansar, Jamaat-ul-Furqan, Islamic Students Movement, Baluchistan Liberation Army and Jamaat ud-Dawwa.
This list does not include Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), despite statements made by Interior Minister, Rehman Malik, which indicate that the TTP and al-Qaeda have collaborated with Sipah-e-Sahiba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Punjab.According to the Home Department, there are approximately 4,000 individuals with relations to these terror groups. These individuals have been placed under surveillance, per Section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Act and they have been banned from carrying out such activities. [جنگ]
Almost equally predictably, an editorial in the Jang’s sister publication, The News, went soft when news broke, contrary to previous reports, that the Jamaat ud-Dawwa had not been banned. The editorial reasons:
The JuD and other organizations may not be behind direct acts of militancy. It is also a fact that they are engaged in many good works that bring solace to many everywhere. Hindu women in Sindh have recently demonstrated in their favour. [The News]
So Hindu women from Sindh demonstrating in JuD’s favor is reason enough to absolve them of the massacre of several hundreds of civilians in the name of religion and state? Something to keep in mind the next time someone gives you the old “we’re both victims of terror” spiel. While these events unfold, the federal and state civilian administrations are anxious to demonstrate their capacity for action against terror groups. PML (N) leader Nawaz Sharif called for a “national conference” on terrorism, which Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Yusuf Raza Gilani has accepted.
But should it surprise anyone that Messrs. Gilani and Kayani are simply waiting for the storm to blow over? Prior to this “national conference,” Mr. Gilani was busy ruling out military operations in South Punjab, while Shahbaz Sharif went even further and denied the existence of the so-called “Punjabi Taliban.”
One wonders what the big purpose of this “national conference” is then. Half the terror groups that should have been part of an offensive (including the TTP/ al-Qaeda affiliates and JuD) have already been given a clean chit and in any case, there’s not going to be any military action against the groups that did end up making it to the Punjab Home Department’s list of “banned” groups.
A month from now, everything will be forgotten and it will be business-as-usual. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.