Method in The Madness

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On March 02, 2014, Pakistani cricket team registered a memorable victory over arch rivals India in the ongoing Asia Cup Tournament In Bangladesh. As soon as Shahid Afridi hit the winning six, the whole country erupted in joy and people came out in streets to celebrate this victory. For Pakistan, a country hit by violent acts of terrorism for many years now, it was a rare occasion of joy and people really wanted to celebrate it. But to their utter dismay, this celebration was short lived. On Monday, March 03, eleven people were killed and about 30 injured in a suicide blast in a court complex in the capital city of Islamabad. Police said two suicide bombers wearing explosive vests rushed into the court complex, threw hand grenades, started shooting, and then blew themselves up. This bomb blast came just a few days after the Pakistan Govt had declared a one month ceasefire against Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan and had halted its recent air offensive against them.

It would be in place here to mention that this attack on the Islamabad Court not only came in the backdrop of the ceasefire, but also recent threats to the Pakistani media by the TTP. On January 17 this year the TTP killed three employees of the Express Tribune newspaper, in Karachi. The paper was forced to drastically tone down its coverage last month after this incident. The responsibility for this attack was claimed by the TTP. In the after of these killings, the newspaper’s editor sent an email to the staff clearly outlining the paper’s new policy: ‘’henceforth there would be “nothing against any militant organisation and its allies like the Jamaat-e-Islami, religious parties and the Tehrik-e-Insaf”. There would also be “nothing on condemning any terrorist attack”, “nothing against TTP or its statements” and “no opinion piece/cartoon on terrorism, militancy, the military, military operations, terror attacks”. This clearly showed that not only is it difficult and dangerous to criticize the terrorists in Pakistan now, but also their political sympathizers, who are in mainstream Pakistani politics and are openly supportive of ‘peace talks’ with the TTP and oppose any military offensive against them.

One cannot just dismiss these two attacks, the one on media and the other one on the Islamabad court as just two more acts of madness by the TTP. There is definitely a method to this madness. With these two attacks, especially targeting democratic institutions in Pakistan, the TTP is trying to silence all voices which can rise against it or which can be a stumbling block to the kind of order it wants to establish in Pakistan. It not only sends a strong signal to journalists and opinion makers who speak against TTP or any other form of religious extremism in Pakistan to be silent, but also warning bells for judiciary to be careful with handing out judgments against any arrested TTP members or members of any other extremist organisation. This also makes it amply clear that TTP is not only targeting Pakistani army and Security forces, but also other institutions of the State. The attack on the media is also directed at allowing its own apologists and proxies in the media to go unopposed, so that its own propaganda is easily disseminated and only its viewpoint is made known to the Pakistani public. The growing sophistication of the TTPs media operations not only in terms of putting out its own message, but also closely monitoring the electronic and print media in all languages has meant that the Taliban are alert to growing public and media criticism of the its activities. As it is, many sections of Pakistani media, both print and electronic, where the TTP apologist are given enough space, have unleashed huge propaganda justifying many violent actions of the TTP and also that of other extremist organizations. Add to that the one month ceasefire that the Pakistani Govt has declared, it leaves the road wide open for TTP to advance its agenda. The ceasefire couldn’t have come at a better time for TTP and at a worse time for the Pakistani State. 

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