As expected, immense pressure is being brought to bear on Pakistan to go after the Taliban because of the apparent Faisal Shahzad connection to them. As all this is happening, a spokesman for the Tehrik-i- Taliban Pakistan (TTP) told an Indian news channel on Thursday that the organisation had no link with Shahzad. That, however, flies in the face of what Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said and also conflicts with Shahzad’s own reported admission before American investigators that he had received training in Waziristan. Furthermore, the timing of the TTP denial, days after the organisation’s very own chief, Hakimullah Mehsud, suggested that the TTP was behind it and after severe pressure from the US administration on Pakistan to crack down on the Taliban, is such that there may be few in western capitals who will believe it. In fact rational and sensible Pakistanis who know the history of the Taliban and how they were created may also have doubts on this denial.
The bottom line is that we should not be seen by the rest of the world, or indeed by ourselves, as dithering on this matter. No conspiracy theories and no denying the obvious. The man may have had an American passport but he was born here and grew up here — debating this point will get us nowhere. So what should be Pakistan’s response? It should be a united one – from the government and the military – and should seek to unearth all those whom Shahzad met during his five-month stint in Pakistan earlier this year. Perhaps most importantly we need to end the safe havens that militants enjoy in North Waziristan. And we need to do this not because America is telling us to but because ending them is in our national interest. Our national interest demands that we rid the country of militants and extremists who want to take Pakistan back to the dark ages through their warped interpretation of religion.