It is rare that the Chief of Army Staff, Pakistan addresses the public at large. Yet, the recent Peshawar madrassa blast has caused the COAS to break the silence, and to make interesting claims about the culprits national terrorism.
One and the same: Peshawar madrassa blast and APS
Terrorists set off a bomb targeting young students at a Peshawar seminary on Tuesday in an attack which is reminiscent of the 2014 massacre of dozens of pupils at Army Public School (APS) in the same city.
“On December 16, 2014, innocent children were targeted at APS Peshawar. And on the occasion of Kashmir Black Day on October 27, 2020, the enemy once again massacred innocent madrassa students in furtherance of its nefarious designs,” army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa said on Wednesday during a visit to Upper Dir district of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The army chief would not name “the enemy”, but PM Imran’s point-man on national security Dr Moeed Yusuf revealed in a recent interview to an Indian journalist that the mastermind of the APS attack had been in contact with an Indian consulate in Afghanistan throughout the methodical killings of schoolchildren.
“It is the same enemy. Yesterday, the nation rejected this enemy and defeated their terrorist ideology. Today, we are united and will again fight it together,” Gen Qamar said during his daylong trip which also took him to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar where most of the injured from Thursday’s bombing at Jamia Zubairia are being treated.
“I’ve come to express solidarity, especially to share the grief of these madrassa children, their families and their teachers,” he said. “We will not rest unless we bring all terrorists and their facilitators to justice.”
A large number of Afghan refugee children are among the victims of the madrassa bombing. “We share each other’s pain and grief,” the army chief said. “Both Afghanistan and Pakistan have faced terrorism during the last two decades.”
Gen Qamar said terrorism has no religion. This obscurantist ideology seeks to spread terror and create an atmosphere of fear in society. “The madrassa attack, in fact, shows hostility towards Islam,” he added. “They [terrorists] target innocent civilians, madrassas, religious places, mosques, imambargahs, churches, temples, educational institutions and law enforcement agencies.”
He called upon the Afghan refugee brethren in Pakistan to remain vigilant and stay away from such hostile forces so that they do not knowingly and unknowingly be used in terrorist activities.
Pakistani officials have repeatedly voiced fears that India is using the Afghan soil to launch terrorists into Pakistan. Prime Minister Imran Khan repeated this apprehension in a recent meeting with a delegation of Afghan MPs saying that “India could use the Afghan soil to destabilize Pakistan”.
Moeed Yusuf claims India attacked APS through Afghani proxies
“Congratulations to the RAW. They have succeeded in creating an organisation to kill Pakistanis,” said Moeed Yusuf.
He claimed that Malik Fareedoun, a mastermind of the Army Public School massacre in Peshawar, was in touch with handlers at the Indian consulate in Afghanistan. The terrorist was also treated at a New Delhi hospital in 2017, Yusuf added. The premier’s assistant said that the government had records of phone calls, phone numbers of people who orchestrated the APS attack from a third country.
Yusuf said that Islamabad has “evidence to a T” that India was sponsoring terrorism in Pakistan, adding that the Indian government was “using Afghanistan’s” territory in its schemes. Nonetheless, it is reasonable to presume that an increase in terror threats may just have been the result of the recent Pakistani Taliban unification.
Pakistan Taliban reunites with two splinter groups
The Pakistan Taliban brought two splinter groups back into its fold, it announced in a statement, days after the army said nationwide operations against armed groups had brought “hard-earned success”.
The Pakistan Taliban, fighting to overthrow the government, is an umbrella of Sunni armed groups called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), which has broken into many divisions.
The TTP, designated a “terrorist” group by the United States, has been in disarray in recent years, especially after several of its top leaders were killed by US drone attacks on both sides of the border, forcing its members into shelter in Afghanistan, or fleeing to urban Pakistan.
“Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan welcomes them,” the TTP statement said of the two splinter groups, adding that it would like all groups to unite.
"We call on the Taliban to reduce violence." – Secretary General @jensstoltenberg following a meeting of #NATO Defence Ministers #DefMin #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/iXK2q81zB8— NATO in Afghanistan (@NATOscr) June 17, 2020
The reunion with Jamat-ul-Ahrar (JuA) and Hizb-ul-Ahrar (HuA) appears significant in view of the rise in attacks against security forces, most claimed by the TTP, including some suicide bombings.
Pakistani army spokesman Major General Babar Iftikhar said, however, the military’s operations against armed groups had been very successful. “The war against terrorism has yielded some hard-earned success,” he told a news conference. “More than 18,000 terrorists have been killed and more than 400 tonnes of explosive material seized” in a countrywide anti-militant operation that started in 2017.