In a statement released this morning, on the terrible occasion of at least 34 dead, 45 and more wounded at a funeral for the wife of a leading anti-Taliban leader, Kala Khan, in Peshawar, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani “reiterated the government’s resolve to root out the cancer of terrorism from every nook and corner of the country.” What’s more, he claimed that “such cowardly attacks on peaceful citizens cannot demoralize the nation.”
Actually, yes, such attacks on peaceful citizens can demoralize the nation; especially if the government and its military does nothing about them. For now and going forward, all that really stands in the way of a Tehrik-e-Taliban take over in Islamabad is the principled and profiteering stance that some tribal leaders around the border regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken against a run through of Taliban authority. Indeed, even though many thousands of Pakistani soldiers have died in beating back the Taliban in the tribal regions, the military remains hesitant and far too plodding in its moves against its own home grown terror cells. The anti-Taliban leaders are thus crucial for this government’s survival in office.
As more of these self-avowed anti-Talibans are killed off, the leadership in tribal Pakistam, the Taliban’s home base will tend increasing neutrality between the competing sides, the government and the insurgents. Any course of military and political action that brings about this outcome cannot be the right course against terror in Pakistan. The government (and any successor government) must move to protect these leaders.
It has been reported that the there was no security present during the funeral service during which a young man wearing a shawl reportedly joined a group of mourners and detonated his explosive vest. Now, certainly the government cannot provide security for all such solemn occasions; nor should it. But surely the government in Islamabad must now have been clued into the fact that it will go under if more leaders like Kala Khan are attacked. Surely something must be done–and publicly so.
Given the terrible job the government did during the devastating summer floods, it’ll be next impossible to pay off or, better, ‘train’ a generation of leaders to support the PPP government; but it won’t do to allow those leaders to perish, leaders who at least want to work with that government against a common enemy. Sending off messages that the government is rooting out terror and that cowardly acts like suicide bombings cannot break a people’s will smack of idle thumb diddling if the daily reportage in the news stakes bleeds ink saying precisely the opposite.
Consider the plaintive remarks, of a survivor of the day’s attack at the funeral in Peshawar: “Government has not provided us any support. Only Allah has saved us.” Statements like this won’t do going forward.