The conviction of Dr Usman — who headed the terrorist attack against GHQ in November 2009 along with one other former military official and five civilians — by a military court is sure to raise further questions about the extent of militant infiltration into the army. True, Dr Usman was a deserter from the army’s medical corps who then joined the Jaish-e-Mohammed and so was not a serving member of the military but questions need to be asked about how so many military personnel have fallen prey to the militant ideology. Charges that the military leadership is itself backing militant organisations are not credible as there is no conceivable way the military would support attacks on itself. But clearly there is a problem at the lower levels and to turn a blind eye to it would be a major unforced error in the fight against militancy. This conviction has also highlighted the efficacy, or lack thereof, of our civilian justice system. Dr Usman was in custody for his alleged role in the Islamabad Marriott bombing of September 2008 but was later released. Others accused of militancy including Hafeez Saeed have found it similarly easy to navigate the courts. The truth is that law-enforcement authorities are rarely able to procure the evidence necessary to successfully prosecute alleged militants. That problem does not exist in military courts with its lower standards of proof.
The Marriott and GHQ attacks are not the only terrorist strikes Dr Usman has been blamed for. He is also believed to have a hand in the suicide attack in 2008 that killed Mushtaq Ahmed Baig — the surgeon-general of the Army Medical Corps and someone who had served with Dr Usman — as well as the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2008. That a former army official is responsible for these attacks should be shocking. But we have become inured to the idea of former army officials going rogue and biting the hand that once fed them. Indoctrination works both ways and the military needs to make sure that all those serving in its ranks fight for the cause of Pakistan, not militant groups who would seek to destroy it.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 15th, 2011.