Daish, ever closer

Published: January 9, 2015
The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto 

The writer is a columnist, a former major of the Pakistan Army and served as press secretary to Benazir Bhutto kamran.shafi@tribune.com.pk

On October 16, 2014, I wrote on these pages under the title: “They come at you in convoys…” an account of what the police chief of Kirkuk, General Sarhad Qadir, had to say about ISIS/ISIL/IS which was attacking Kirkuk then: “So there! The chickens of the imposed Middle East conflict: Iraq; Syria, et al, coming home to roost. In their eagerness to topple the Alawite regime in Syria, Arab countries and Turkey and the Western allies turned a blind eye to terrorists crossing their borders into Syria for years now. Indeed, there were reports that TTP terrorists from Pakistan were also making their way to Syria. Little wonder, then, that the TTP has accepted Abubakr al Baghdadi as ‘Amir-ul-Momineen’!”

I went on, “but let us come closer to home and consider just when our own TTP will morph into the ‘IS in the subcontinent’ (ISIS), just as al Qaeda has already announced an ‘al Qaeda in the subcontinent’ (AQIS)? Are we prepared for that eventuality, eh Gentlemen? For, after all, the ‘goodies’ are all here, in the Land of the Pure.”

We began to get reports very soon thereafter of Daish wall-chalkings from virtually across the country, from places as diverse as Karachi, Sindh; Daska, Sialkot district, Punjab; and D I Khan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P). Whilst the various governments pooh-poohed the reports as rubbish, we learnt on December 16, ’14 that 13 people were arrested at Main Market, Gulberg, Lahore, with “prohibited” literature and pamphlets under suspicion of writing slogans in favour of Daish.

They were said to be members of the Hizb-ut-Tahrir (HuT) which has wanted the Islamic Caliphate for years now, vowing to fly the Caliphate’s flag atop Buckingham Palace for starters! As a reminder, the HuT was founded in Palestine in 1953, but was most visible in the UK in the early ’90s under the leadership of Omar Bakri Mohammad who moved on to al-Muhajiroun, a sister organisation, which he founded with the help of Anjem Choudary.

So then, a few days ago word came from my village of Wah, Tehsil Taxila, Rawalpindi District, that Daish ‘wall-chalking’, well actually ‘wall/gate painting’ had appeared there. “Daish Is Coming” is the slogan. More detailed than just writing the name ‘Daish’, you will agree.

What makes this most critical is that Wah Village is situated bang smack in the middle of an area of great security relevance: To its east, at two kilometres lie the Pakistan Ordnance Factories (POFs), the site of a deadly suicide attack in August 2008 that killed over 75 people and horrifically injured more than 110 others. Note please, that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) proudly accepted responsibility for this attack.

To its west at 20 kilometres, in Kamra, is the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex and the PAF base Minhas, which too was audaciously attacked by terrorists in August 2012, in which attack it was officially said that one aircraft had been destroyed and several people were killed. Unofficial accounts told of a higher number of aircraft destroyed and badly damaged. This attack was also claimed by the TTP.

This is not all: to Wah’s north, 15 kilometres away is the Air Weapons Complex, a development and manufacturing facility for airborne weapons systems which, thankfully, has thus far been spared an attack.

However, we must immediately recall that at least six ‘commanders’ of the TTP, including its then spokesman Shahidullah Shahid, have pledged allegiance to the ‘Caliph of Islam’ Abu Bakar Al-Baghdadi Al Qureshi Al-Hussaini also head of ISIS/ISIL/IS/Daish, call them what you will. The ‘commanders’ are Fateh Gul, Khyber Agency; Mufti Hassan, Peshawar; Daulat Khan, Kurram Agency; and Saeed Khan, Orakzai Agency.

I might also point out that whilst there are reports that the murderer Maulvi Fazlullah and the terrorist mastermind Al-Zawahiri are “uncomfortable” with this show of loyalty to the Daish, and that, therefore, Shahidullah has been removed from the post of spokesman for the TTP, it has always been my belief that terrorists of this ilk are one and the same. They are ‘joined at the hip’ as I have always said. These little ‘disagreements’ are merely feints and stratagems to keep their victims destabilised and unsure.

So, is it not time to take the Daish threat seriously, particularly now that it is getting ever closer to important national institutions and establishments? Whilst I can already anticipate unbelieving and scornful sounds emanating from the Powers, I can only refer to an article I wrote in Dawn, published on April 14, 2009, fully five years before the Peshawar APS catastrophe:  (In hindsight, the piece was harsher than it should have been on the political establishment for security policies were then, as they are now, in ‘other’ hands).

A paragraph in the article reads: “… the COAS, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, says several weeks after the army handed Swat over to the Taliban that it was ready to face any threat, internal or external! Can you even believe any of this? What is happening to this country of ours; how long will we live in denial; when will we realise that if we don`t act now it will all be over; that the Taliban will simply take over the state using the shock and awe that comes from killing wantonly and cruelly?”

Now, friends, if the APS attack was not to kill ‘wantonly and cruelly’ (and heartlessly), what else was it? Yet, no one took notice of what I wrote until the TTP moved into a village in District Haripur, Hazara, K-P, and all hell broke loose, resulting in an army assault on the TTP in Swat, all but defeating it.

Exactly like the March of the Taliban, once again it has taken an atrocity like the APS massacre of innocent children to galvanise the nation; even prompting parliament to willingly hand over great powers to the military, powers that could be greatly misused against anyone.

Anyway, here we go: hoping that the new army leadership is as clear-eyed as we think it is. As I have said before, we have rather overstayed our welcome at the Last Chance Saloon and the turkeys are coming home to roost in their droves.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 9th,  2015.

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Reader Comments (12)

  • Toticalling
    Jan 9, 2015 - 1:08AM

    There are far too many who have sympathies with terrorists, evn though they do not commit such crimes like the hard core. I do not see any easy solutions and feel we will have to live with them for a long time to come. I hope my assesment is wrong.


  • Sam@ABE
    Jan 9, 2015 - 1:51AM

    The author is trying to splash cold water on the eyes of a somnolent nation … but religion can be a powerful drug. One outfit that Pakistanis need to watch out for seems to be the Lashkar-e-Khorasan. Just as Iran has begun battling ISIS in Syria .. it might end up training a Hezbollah style force to operate in Baluchistan just as they did in Lebanon.


  • raider
    Jan 9, 2015 - 1:55AM

    dear writer by clamoring the terrorism menace in written pieces is not causing these versions of terrorism going elsewhere, all policies and strategies have doomed to failure after 9/11, then i have one question just, have terrorism inflated or dwindled after 9/11 after so painstaking struggle? you cannot ignore factor jihad in any circumstances, it is the part and parcel of religion of Muslims, although in misinterpreted form but belligerent policy to encounter this mindset have seriously flapped over the globe, so review the policy


  • John B
    Jan 9, 2015 - 5:33AM

    While ISIS – PAK is a reality their aim is the “loot” from PAK . That is a danger to all. They will cause mayhem in pak towards their goal, but they are not going to stay as rulers. Because, the treasury for such rule is not readily available and is controlled by the market, so their ruling attempt will be futile. In that context, PAK is saved. However, mayhem is on the horizon, unless something drastically happens on the head and shoulders of the Isis franchise.

    As usual, PAK establishment is not going to control them in their soil or even see them coming. ( or are they already there ?)


  • AVMPolpot
    Jan 9, 2015 - 8:27AM

    Islam the Religion of Peace and Enlightenment
    Ask any Frenchman.


  • Parvez
    Jan 9, 2015 - 1:49PM

    Well done….someone has to ring the alarm bell……the important thing is to keep ringing it so as to wake up those capable of doing something…well, hopefully capable of doing something.
    Well done..also to our lawyer activist Mr.Jibran who is doing his bit with courage and conviction…..and shame on our politicians and judiciary who even today are unable to make the hard decisions.


  • Sexton Blake
    Jan 9, 2015 - 7:32PM

    The major is always a good read even though I do not always agree with him. Being an ex-military person and trained to obey orders he tends to think tactically and not strategically. Also being a journalist he has to tread a fine line between writing what is acceptable to certain people and what his readership will believe. There is an indication that he is sociable, and I am absolutely certain that along with several of his colleagues he would make a delightful dinner companion and raconteur. I may or may not have the major’s charm, but at least I have an 80 year old friend who is slim, elegant, well dressed, and has an excellent hairdresser.. She insists in going halves in everything, but I have found her weakness is a dozen red roses and Belgium chocolates which she never refuses on special occasions. With the concepts of strategic thinking and bribery in mind perhaps the major and Pakistan leadership should keep the two concepts in mind and stop referring to militants in a derogatory way. Now I am not saying that red roses and Belgium chocolates will sway the militants, but the concept may. I have not seen any strong diplomatic initiatives being put forward by the Pakistan leadership over the last 60 odd years and practically none by the military. If Pakistan wishes to solve some of its domestic problems it should try harder at the non military level, and attempt to control the military. The alternative will be constant militancy. It is double standards to be horrified at losing 150 people in Peshawar, but not appearing to care when 30,000 people in outlying areas are lost, together with untold damage to their way of life..


  • Author
    Jan 10, 2015 - 12:26AM

    @Sexton Blake Surely you know how many times both the military AND the civilian government have tried to make peace with the terrorist murderers? No? Please Google:)


  • Sexton Blake
    Jan 10, 2015 - 5:50AM

    Dear Author,
    I will not go into all the myriad details, but you may recall that Taliban peace talks were progressing reasonably well until a US drone strike was used to assassinate Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud on 3rd December 2013. The Pakistan Interior Minister said at the time: “It is the death of all peace efforts”. Coincidentally, General Sharif was appointed a few days before on 27th November, 2013, and ever since then has worked in tandem with the US to neutralize the Taliban with Pakistan airstrikes. These are just a few statistics, which may help you, but there are more.


  • Author
    Jan 10, 2015 - 1:18PM

    @Sexton Blake: Sir, with respect I do not need help from you, thank you, as Re: ‘statistics’: I can read just as well as you. The ‘talks’ were no-go, ever since they began, with the Taliban sitting on their high horses and talking down to government; inflicting a thousand cuts as they went on their merry way: such as making the govt’s negotiators walk miles to come to THEM. Also, they never ONCE said they would lay down their arms against the State, and instead used their fifth columnists (pun intended) to say ‘tribals’ never laid down their arms. Uzbeks and Tajiks and Uighurs and Somalis and Egyptians and Yemenis and Chechens and Sudanese and Egyptians and Saudis, all of them terrorist murderers on Pakistani soil, were Pakistani ‘tribals’? Indeed, inside of two weeks of the ‘talks’ starting they attacked Karachi airport killing dozens and injuring many more.Incidentally Hakimullah Mehsud was killed by a US drone (and good riddance) in November 2013 and NOT December as you write. Mehsud was killed fully 7 months BEFORE the ‘talks’ started! Incidentally,I do wish you would use your real name so we know just WHO you are (you are not from the band Sexton Blake, one of my favourites, surely?). I shall then tell you, after proper consideration, whether YOU are a good dinner companion or not:) Oh, and thanks for my ACR.


  • Jan 10, 2015 - 3:14PM

    Sexton Blake is a band? Huh? Thought it was a moniker used
    by a asylum seeker in Germany,.. from FATA, a TTP apologist.
    to boot. Considering his fairly adequate command of the written
    English, Perp. may have transmigrated to the Queen’s dominion.
    As the Germans say “Gott troste auf Sie Sexton” [God have pity
    on you Sexton].


  • Zeeshan Ahmed
    Jan 26, 2015 - 11:08PM

    So now we’re out and about creating ISIS bogeymen to justify whatever it is that has been happening in the endless war on terror across Pakistan. In the East/West Pakistan civil war, the Bengalis who won free and fair elections were suddenly the evil menace, when Balouchis cried for equality they were labelled as separatists, thousands murdered or at other times it’s India, America, this and that.

    The ‘land of the pure’ where railway ministers openly take responsibility after being exposed on camera for taking bribes and vow to deal with the journalist culprits that exposed them, where prime ministers manufacture clips for the tv showing them visiting fake hospitals.

    Have we ever considered that maybe Pakistan is the problem and not the rest of the world?


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