Much ado

We need to keep in mind that it is still too early to say what Billah’s fate will be.


Editorial July 20, 2013
Verdicts against terrorists have not come in because of flaws in investigations, failures to collect scientific evidence and fear of reprisal, which holds back both witnesses and the police. We must hope these factors are overcome this time and Masoom Billah, along with his accomplices, punished under the law. PHOTO: FILE

A great deal is being made by the Intelligence Bureau (IB) of the arrest of Masoom Billah, a man identified as the head of the sectarian Lashkar-e-Jhangvi’s (LeJ) death squad. The IB has briefed the prime minister (PM) about the arrest of Billah, which apparently came as a result of detailed investigations into the attack in June this year on Sindh High Court judge Maqbool Baqar, in which nine persons were killed. Billah is also accused of involvement in other cases, including kidnapping for ransom. The arrest was made in Karachi, and Billah, the PM was told, has given out significant information on the LeJ plans for future attacks and also on the names of those engaged in previous acts of terrorism.

In some ways then, the arrest is indeed important. It is something to make an ado about, given that too few militants have been arrested over the years, essentially allowing them to get away scot-free with the most heinous crimes. But we need to keep in mind that it is still too early to say what Billah’s fate will be. Verdicts against terrorists have not come in because of flaws in investigations, failures to collect scientific evidence and fear of reprisal, which holds back both witnesses and the police. We must hope these factors are overcome this time and Masoom Billah, along with his accomplices, punished under the law.

Beyond this, as the PM has said, it is also important to track down those financing terrorism, determine how the LeJ acquires arms and how it is supported in logistical terms. Understanding all these mechanisms is important. Our aim, after all, is not to arrest an individual or two, but also to break up the networks driving extremism forward. Only when we succeed in this can we claim to be winning the war on terror and ridding our people of the menace of extremism that has already claimed far too many lives, with sectarian attacks continuing across the country and leaving behind bleeding scars on its surface, as hatred and intolerance continue to spread. It will take determined efforts to prevent more such wounds from being inflicted.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 21st, 2013.

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