Mansehra’s ‘Hafsa Brigade’

Published: March 26, 2012

The writer is author of The Gun Tree: One Woman’s War (Oxford University Press, 2001) and lives in Bhurban

Buckling under Talibanisation is suddenly at par with the course in Mansehra district, where the district administration and police have recently advised a number of entrepreneurs, educational institutions and NGOs to do just this, if they want to remain alive and well. This worrisome situation arose after a handwritten letter, purportedly issued by the so-called ‘Hafsa Brigade’ –– an off-shoot of the Pakistan Taliban –– was delivered to a local journalist who immediately passed the Urdu note on to authorities.

The missive warned of bomb attacks on all CD shops, internet cafes, cable TV operators, educational institutions offering co-education and NGOs operating in the district and of ‘dire consequences’ for journalists refusing to promote the Hafsa Brigade’s ideology. This prompted the police and district administration to call a meeting with all of those in the line of fire. After discussion, they were asked to shut down their shops and find alternative businesses instead. In issuing this advice to the proprietors of over 200 CD shops, 70-plus internet cafes, at least 12 co-educational institutions and in excess of a dozen national, multi-national and local NGOs, the district administration and police have granted victory to the Hafsa Brigade at the drop of a hat. This will, no doubt, encourage them and other outfits of the same ilk to issue more letters of similar nature in the future.

It goes without saying that the lives of those threatened must be safeguarded at all costs, as should the employment of what amounts to hundreds of people without any alternative sources of income. But, it is also pertinent to question the ease with which the combined authorities are reported to have surrendered to what is, so far, an unsubstantiated threat issued by an unknown people. In taking this course of action, the authorities could well be seen as encouraging the enemy to issue orders and implement laws as they see fit which, unless the majority of the local population concurs, sets an extremely bad precedent indeed.

The Pakistan Taliban, with or without the assistance of ‘out-of-state actors’, have already wreaked chaos in Swat and in areas bordering Afghanistan. While they have not yet made serious inroads into other districts, the reaction to the Hafsa Brigade’s letter by the authorities in Mansehra is indicative of admitting that they can either do nothing to prevent talibanisation, or that they actually condone it. Thus, it is tantamount to inviting the Taliban to do as they damn well please.

The fact that eight terrorist attacks, all thought to have been carried out by Taliban groups, occurred between 2007 and 2011 in Hazara, of which Mansehra is a part further underlines the ineffectiveness of the district administration and the police. Unless they pull their socks up fast, they should be taken to task about what they are allowing to take place. In these attacks, 42 people were killed and another 62 were injured and not a single perpetrator was brought to book or even identified. If and when Mansehra falls to Talibanisation, as there is no one ready to act against it, the entire Hazara division and the Galiyat are liable to follow suit in a relatively quick succession. And, after these areas fall it could be your own backyard that is next.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • Falcon
    Mar 26, 2012 - 11:27PM

    Zahrah – Thanks for bringing it to our attention. Terrorists operating so much impunity should be a matter of concern. However, it would have been even better to see your thoughts on how to address this risk.

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  • Ali Tanoli
    Mar 27, 2012 - 12:50AM

    @Zahra
    Mnsehra is not too far from Swat and then Abbotabad and Harri pur to islamabad.

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  • Harry Stone
    Mar 27, 2012 - 1:39AM

    Well someone must keep the land of the pure……………..pure

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  • Usman Shahid
    Mar 27, 2012 - 10:11AM

    No attention by media on this issue. We are in Abbottabad, 20 min away from Manshera and are unaware of it.

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  • Saad Durrani
    Mar 27, 2012 - 10:42AM

    Enough is enough already. A political solution—and a wise one—is the need of the time. If today they asked educational institutions to stop operations, tomorrow they will might ask you to buy their “halal water”. Will the authorities submit to this condition if it occurs? Why can’t we start community policing where we all look out for one another?

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  • qaisar
    Mar 27, 2012 - 3:14PM

    shame on the administration. They want to push us back to stone age

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  • Umer
    Mar 27, 2012 - 4:01PM

    Declare Pakistan the ‘Peoples Republic of Pakistan’ and they lose the crutch of religion which they have been using to terrorise all and threaten to implement. This may have some serious repercussions but it would be once off. Current wave doesnt seem to be abating and can linger on for years and years. What a waste of nation that would be.

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  • popsaeed
    Mar 27, 2012 - 4:30PM

    which kind of CD Available in CD SHOP first investigate then write.

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  • VOICE-OF-GILGIT-BALTISTAN
    Mar 27, 2012 - 4:54PM

    @Falcon:
    @Harry Stone:
    Well, our nation is gone dead , in the realm of intellect and enlighten moderation , In the name of faith taking lives , imposing their own version of faith , calling themselves to be right. In fact we muslims are specific to Pakistan . The Thekedars of Islam ”’ going towards stone age !! We are a dead nation with dead thoughts !!

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  • Kashmirian
    Mar 27, 2012 - 7:44PM

    CD shops threatened to be burnt, is it a new lal masjid like event in the making.

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  • imran
    Mar 27, 2012 - 9:57PM

    Who is Hafsa?

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  • Mar 27, 2012 - 11:32PM

    Giving in to the ridiculous demands of terrorists is not the way out of any situation. Have the people of the region not lived long enough with the constant threat of terrorists? Is it not time to finally put these daily threats to rest? It can only happen when we rejoin our efforts. We have seen in the past we have been very successful together going after these terror outfits. We need to do that again so people who live in small towns like Mansehra can live their lives in peace and prosperity.

    Maj David Nevers
    DET-United States Central Command
    http://www.centcom.mil/ur

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  • true_blue_pakistani
    Mar 28, 2012 - 1:58AM

    ‘Hafsa Brigade’ correct.

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  • kaalchakra
    Mar 28, 2012 - 12:52PM

    Let’s not forget that CD shops, internet cafes etc are often dens of unmentionable vices that no morally aware nation can let grow freely, and like a deadly weed, take over a beautiful chaman of Allah. Calling these excellent people a ‘brigade’ does nullify the good work they do by promoting virtue and opposing vice, as they must.

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