Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Monday, December 17th, 2018

A Turbulent Year for Kabul and Islamabad


A Turbulent Year for Kabul and Islamabad

Terrorist networks have inflicted indescribable sufferings upon Afghan and Pakistani nations and the cul-de-sac of peace talks was not brokered within the past political debates. Terrorism is the core of the problems before the National Unity Government (NUG). Leaving two bloody years behind with the highest casualty rate, 2017 will be also a murky year. The recent terrorist attacks in Kabul and Helmand and the mysterious killings of six members of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) by unknown gunmen, suggest that the escalated militancy will continue.
During a telephone conversation with President Ghani, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has said that terrorism is a common enemy of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ghani offered his condolence over loss of life in Monday’s Lahore terrorist attack, which killed more than a dozen and wounded over 80 people, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) Jamaat-ul-Ahrar group claimed responsibility.

The lull in Pakistan has been broken and it came under terrorist’s severe attacks recently. Lahore, Mohmand Agency, Peshawar and Sindh have been attacked in rapid succession by the militants. In between, Karachi and Quetta have suffered violence too. The suicide attack on Thursday killed more then 100 and wounded more than 150 people as they performed a ritual at the famous Lal Shahbaz Qalandar shrine in Sehwan in the southern Sindh province. The self-styled Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group claimed responsibility for the blast via its Amaq propaganda website. For Pakistani nation, the attack was reminiscent of the suicide bombing at the Shah Norani shrine in Balochistan in November last year. That is to say, the last attack on a shrine of a Sufi mystic took place on November 12, 2016, when a suicide bomber struck the shrine of Shah Norani in the Khuzdar district of Balochistan, where at least 52 people were killed and 102 were injured.

Last week must have been the deadliest week for Pakistan. Thursday's blast is the latest in a series of attacks across Pakistan since Monday, Feb 13, when 13 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a rally in the eastern city of Lahore, for which the Taliban-linked Jamaat-ul-Ahral claimed the responsibility. Two police officers were killed on Tuesday while trying to defuse a bomb in the Baluchistan provincial capital of Quetta and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi Al Alami faction claimed the responsibility. That attack was followed on Wednesday by a suicide bombing at a government office in the Mohmand tribal area and a suicide attack on government employees in Peshawar, killing six people, for the first attack Jamaat-ul-Ahrar and for the second Tehreek-e-Taliban claimed the responsibilities. Three others were killed in an improvised explosive device (IED) in Awaran, no group claimed the responsibility. Thursday’s attack was the deadliest in Pakistan since December 2014, when fighters assaulted a school in Peshawar, killing 154 people, mostly schoolchildren.

Hence, warring factions seek to intensify their insurgency both in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It is most likely that the current year will be really turbulent and the militancy will not be mitigated. The Taliban led by Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada are widely involved in carrying out terrorist attacks in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, nonetheless, different warring parties are believed to play prominent role in destabilizing the country. Similarly, loyalists to the ISIL have also gained foothold in Afghan-Pak soil. Reports say that the ISIL group in Nangarhar province has ushered in recruiting militias and also exercise their radical ideology such as dishonoring women and killing men and children.

If a new, sustained wave of terrorism is to be avoided and the resultant downturn in violence to become a permanent trend, the anti-militancy policy framework will need to be overhauled. Developing the will to want to end all forms and manifestations of militancy is important, but the strategy and operational tactics to do so is an essential concomitant.

To find the root cause of terrorism, Pakistan’s Members of the National Assembly Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat, while debating the Compulsory Education of Arabic Bill 2015, discussed whether the lack of Arabic as a subject in the curriculum was the cause of terrorism in Pakistan. PML-N MNA Parveen Masood Bhatti expressed support for the bill, saying terrorism was increasing because students were not studying Arabic. “We have started focusing on the English language, and parents put their children in English-medium schools and do not bother teaching their children the Arabic language. It is because of this attitude that terrorism is increasing,” she is cited as saying. Similarly, Committee member Nafeesa Khattak from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) supported the bill, saying introducing Arabic as a compulsory language from “the start of education” would allow children to learn and understand the Holy Koran and help a large number of people get jobs. However, some seriously disagreed on the mentioned ideas.

The idea that teaching Arabic will mitigate militancy seems very naïve and simplistic. Teaching Arabic is very prominent in Afghanistan’s schools and universities; however, militancy seems to be on the rise. In the meantime, some Arabic teachers express fundamental ideas which trigger serious discussions and disagreement among the students. Furthermore, it should be noted that the Taliban come from the Arabic background (seminaries) and their main focus is on Arabic lessons, they do not understand deeply and ultimately resort to radicalism. So, it is not a panacea for radicalization at all and Pakistani officials have to seek better strategy for eliminating the root of terrorism.

Hujjattullah Zia is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at zia_hujjat@yahoo.com

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