Report: WILL JIHADIS BECOME PAKISTAN’S NEMESIS?
It was a dark Sunday for Pakistan. In a shocking development, the Jinnah International Airport at Karachi, the largest airport in this failed Islamic state, came under a violent, deadly attack by a group of well equipped terrorists on June 8. This stunning seize of Karachi airport was verily a paralysing psychological blow to the political dispensation and defence establishment in the country. The attack which left 37 people including all 10 terrorists’ dead has once again pitchforked Pakistan into the global limelight for all the wrong reasons.
Having created a Frankenstein monster by assiduously nurturing a variety of jihadi groups and pushing them into the neighbouring countries including India and Afghanistan to create “destabilising conditions”, Pakistan is now slowly realising that it is now becoming a victim of its own agenda. Indeed, saner voices in Pakistan have also for long been warning against the policy of propping up jihadi groups to settle score with the neighbours.
On another front, the attack on Karachi airport has clearly demonstrated that nothing in Pakistan is beyond the reach of jihadis who in 2011 had showed their skill and prowess by attacking the high security Mehran air base in Karachi killing 17 people. The attack on the PNS Mehran air base, for which TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) had claimed responsibility, was said to have been in retaliation to the annihilation of Al-Qaida supremo Osama bin Laden in a secret US Special Forces operation. Prior to that, in 2009, ten terrorists belonging to TTP had attacked the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi killing six army personnel. In 2012, eight militants and one security personnel were killed in a shocking terrorist attack on the Kamra aeronautical base. For this attack too, TTP had claimed responsibility.
Not surprisingly then the responsibility for the Karachi airport attack too has been claimed by the outlawed TTP ostensibly as a revenge for the killing of Hakimullah Mehsud in the American drone strike. It took thirteen hours of fierce and sustained gun battle for the Pakistani military to clear the airport area of terrorists, a majority of whom were known to be Uzbeki Islamic hardliners. In fact, their ultimate objective was to hijack a passenger aircraft that could end up as a pawn in the game of seeking the release of imprisoned terrorists. The strategy of terrorists was to paralyse Pakistan by hitting vital points in Karachi which accounts for a lion’s share of the country’s revenue. “The goal was to damage the government, including hijacking planes and destroying state installations. This was just an example of what we are capable of and there is more to come. The government should be ready for even worse attacks,” said a spokesman of TTP.
Even as the Pakistani security forces heaved a sigh of relief after crushing this brazen attack and declaring the Karachi airport secure, the terrorists returned to strike back again for the second time on June10. This time around, their target was the camp of the Airport Security Force (ASF) situated close to the airport. However, the attackers managed to escape unscathed as a heavy contingent of security forces reached near the ASF camp. For this attack too, TTP claimed responsibility.
Groups owing allegiance to TTP which derive their sustenance from radical Deobandi and Wahabi philosophies are also active in targeting Shias and Sufis across Pakistan. In fact, on June 8, even as the fierce gun battle was raging at the Karachi airport, as many as 25 Shia pilgrims returning from Iran were done to death in a terrorist attack at Taftan in the restive Balochistan province where extremist groups in sync with Taliban doctrine have been busy fomenting sectarian violence for nearly a decade now.
In the booming urban expanse of Karachi, TTP has managed to spread its tentacles quietly and efficiently. This is said to be a sequel to the massive migration of Pashtuns from the north western parts of Pakistan where the US drone attacks have become a nightmare for the civilian population. Today Pashtuns, who are considered sympathetic to the cause of Taliban, have emerged as the largest ethnic community in Karachi once dominated by the Urdu speaking Mohajirs. In the killing field that is Karachi, TTP cadres are busy settling scores with their rivals and perceived enemies.
For Pakistan, the message is loud and clear: unless there is a display of a strong political commitment to crush the jihadis, both physically and psychologically, the country is poised for certain disintegration. And the jihadis could very well become Pakistan’s potential nemesis. -Radhakrishna Rao