There are few cities in Pakistan that have been spared the wrath of the extremists. Until yesterday, Faisalabad was one of those that had been relatively peaceful. A car bomb that exploded at a CNG station, killing at least 25 people and destroying a PIA building and gas station, has shattered that calm. Although it is not yet known who was responsible for the blast, given the sensitive location of the attack — near several military and government buildings as well as the ISI office — it is fair to assume that the Taliban or one of its affiliates is behind the bombing.
The attack comes just a few days after Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif complained about the use of the term ‘Punjabi Taliban’. Sharif claimed that the term was being employed to sow interprovincial discord and blamed Interior Minister Rehman Malik of concocting it as a way of undermining the PML-N. The fact that his words were followed so swiftly by yet another attack, should give Shahbaz Sharif food for thought and, perhaps, force him to eat his words. The fact is that there is a group of connected extremist groups operating out of Punjab, all of which have now allied with the Taliban. The Lashkar-e-Taiba, Jaish-e-Muhammed, Harkutul-Mujhahideen and Harkutul-Ansar have all been increasingly active in the province, particularly in southern Punjab. Most of these militant outfits are offshoots of the Sipah-e-Sahaba, which itself has seen a resurrection in recent years. That this nexus is behind the Faisalabad bombings is likely. That they have been responsible for militant attacks and the spread of extremism in Punjab is beyond any doubt.
Meanwhile, the PML-N-led provincial government has adopted a head-in-the-stance posture. The government is seemingly uninterested in tackling the Taliban menace, preferring instead to wage war against its political opponents. The PML-N is staying true to its ideological roots by trying to appease or even co-opt religious elements in the country. It is not that the PML-N supports the terrorists. It just doesn’t have the same level of vitriol for them that it reserves for the PPP. If that attitude doesn’t change, the battle against extremism in Punjab will be lost.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2011.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ