The killing of five Chechen and Uzbek would-be suicide bombers at a security checkpost in Quetta on May 17 is a grim reminder that the sceptre of terrorism is not about to go away anytime soon. Also that three women were among those killed, highlights the fact that the terrorist threat can come from the most unexpected of quarters. From the passports displayed on the TV channels, it is clear that they were from Russia and from the Central Asian republics that still use the Cyrillic script. The terror groups currently located in North and South Waziristan include Uzbeks and Chechens belonging to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and its splinter, the Islamic Jihad Group. (Others include Arabs from as far away as Egypt and Morocco.) Both have worked in tandem with the Taliban under the tutelage of al Qaeda.
There is little doubt that the five were on a post-Osama mission of revenge, now unfolding throughout Pakistan, from Shabqadar in the north and Karachi in the south, where the killing of a Saudi diplomat has been linked to al Qaeda by Interior Minister Rehman Malik. There may be some scepticism about the authenticity of what the Quetta police is saying, but the testimony of the passports is difficult to deny. Some praise is in order for the security forces, who have been harassed by terrorism coming from multiple sources in and around Quetta in that they managed to tackle the threat in a prompt manner.
The Chechens and Uzbeks were welcomed by Pakistani authorities in the late 1990s when they were fighting the Soviets as allies of the Taliban, who had recognised the Russian province of Chechnya as an independent state and accepted a Chechen ambassador in Kabul. For some mysterious reason, Pakistan allowed this ambassador, Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, to tour Pakistan extensively, meeting our religious leadership probably after a disagreement over the question of recognising Chechnya, which the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) had correctly refused to do. Some years later he was killed in Qatar in a bomb blast, and it was widely believed that Russia was behind it.
As for the Uzbeks, Pakistani hosts in the Tribal Areas shielded their leader, Tahir Yuldashev, and his brutal terrorists, and allowed him to plan terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan including attempts on the life of the Uzbek president, Islam Karimov. Yuldashev was finally killed in Waziristan by a drone, but not before countless innocent Pakistanis were murdered by his followers in the cities of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. During President Asif Ali Zardari’s recent tour of Russia, he must have been told that the recent massive bombing of a Moscow airport may well have been planned in North Waziristan. Our president may have tried to sound Russia as an alternative source of funds to America, only to find that Russia, too, would ask Pakistan to ‘do more’.
The other most brutal organisation with presence in Quetta is Lashkar-e-Jhangvi — an offshoot of the Sipah-i-Sahaba — under the leadership of Ilyas Kashmiri, located in North Waziristan, who is said to be among the top three leaders of al Qaeda. And as this was being written, it was reported that a man was arrested in Gujranwala for admitting to sending two teenagers for terrorist training in Mansehra, not very far from Abbottabad. The two boys shown on TV confessed that they had been persuaded to go to Mansehra in the name of Islam. The Mansehra terrorist camps have often been mentioned in the press, including right after the Mumbai attacks, when one allegedly run by the Lashkar-e-Taiba was shut down by the authorities.
While the terms of reference of the inquiry commission into the Abbottabad Operation are being framed, it is important for Pakistan to know the extent to which its population has been exposed to slaughter from ‘guest’ terrorists, who have been ‘naturalised’ into our tribal society, on the basis of money that is donated in ample amount from benefactors in the Gulf. Our troops have been mercilessly killed and our prosperous regions, like Swat, have been reduced to penury by them, while most of us are made to believe the killings are being carried out by America, India and Israel working in tandem. And we are still harping about losing our sovereignty to America.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 19th, 2011.