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Real culprits behind attack on Peshawar church

General (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg

all_saints_church_after_attackThe attack on All Saints Church in Peshawar was part of ‘Al-Qaeda’s revenge.’ On the same day the Nairobi’s shopping mall in Kenya was targeted. Peshawar church attackers were not the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) guys but they belonged to Al-Qaeda’s Jindul Hafza Group, which has joined hands with Al-Shabab of Somalia and claimed responsibility for Nairobi attack.

Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-ZawahiriTwo suicide bombers attacked Peshawar church, whereas in Nairobi 7-8 armed men took part in the attack, shouting: “We are here to take revenge for the killing of Somalia Muslims by the Kenyan and Ethiopian Christian troops.” These incidents provide clear linkage between Peshawar and Nairobi carnages and Ayman al-Zawahri’s recent statement that “Muslim world continues to suffer as a consequence of attacks by the non-Muslims. Therefore, Al-Qaeda will carry out worldwide vengeance.”

The Al-Qaeda of 1980s is not the same as it is now. It was part of the Islamic resistance which defeated Soviets in Afghanistan. The Islamic resistance was estimated at 60,000 mujahedeen drawn from 70 countries of the world, and about 40,000 came from Pakistan alone whereas Al-Qaeda’s total strength was about 2,500. In 1992, Al-Qaeda moved to Sudan and returned after Taliban took control of Afghanistan in 1996. Al-Qaeda did not take part in the armed struggle during the Afghan jihad and remained focused on development works. The United States and Saudi government provided $400 million a year to Al-Qaeda for this purpose.

After 9/11, the United States has almost eliminated Al-Qaeda and according to the CIA, “there remained only 150 of them in Afghanistan, Pakistan and some other countries,” who have recently killed pastors and Christians in Syria and Nigeria. Such attacks could also be mounted in Europe and in the United States. This is a new wave of terror, which could not be prevented despite strong blows to Al-Qaeda over the years. In fact, like the Star Fish, Al-Qaeda has grown new heads and wings, of a heterogeneous group of terrorists. “Al-Qaeda is bigger now than it ever has been … Besides the Al-Qaeda core”, says a White House report. The world, therefore, needs to have a new strategy and a well-defined course of action to face this challenge.

Pakistan must identify the real culprits behind such attacks than being reticent that “achieving APC [all-parties conference] objectives now was difficult.” In fact, the prospects for peace process are greater now because the appeal made by the religious scholars has shown very positive response from all concerned. The drone attacks in South Waziristan are an impediment to negotiations because the objective of the United States is to keep Pakistan embroiled in fighting with the tribal people, forcing deployment of about 100,000 troops on Afghan borders, which is not in conformity with Quaid-i-Azam’s vision that “the responsibility of guarding the northwestern borders of Pakistan lay with the tribals of the area.” True to Quaid’s expectations, they have successfully defended this border till we hit them.

Peace negotiations with Taliban are a must. In fact, there should be a two-pronged approach to negotiations: open dialogue as well as secret contacts. In the process, Pakistan needs to be alert as there are enemies, who want to derail the process. There are several splinter group of TTP and the remnants of the banned organizations drawing their support and sustenance from their foreign paymasters, and are ever ready to conduct such dastardly attacks to sabotage the peace process.

The United States wants India as the dominant player in the region from Afghanistan to Bangladesh while there is a visible shift in their policy in the South Asian region to achieve their objectives by exploiting internal differences of the Muslims, as it has done to change the government in Egypt and the induced conflict between the Shias and Sunnis in Syria.

Unfortunately, such exploitable fault lines exist within Pakistan, such as the secular versus religious, the sectarian divide and the Deobandi-Barelvi divide within the Sunni sect, which causes great vulnerability. In fact, we ourselves are to be blamed for creating such absurdities within which can be exploited by fanning these differences as it was done in Egypt by winning over General Al Sissi’s loyalty in support of the secularists. We also have amongst us the Mir Jafars and Mir Qasims, ready to collude with our enemies to weaken our resolve. Do we know such elements amongst us, threatening our national security interests?

aslam_beg-1The writer is former chief of army staff of
Pakistan and 
can be reached at:

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