From Operation Cyclone to APS attack Anniversary

From Operation Cyclone to APS attack Anniversary

Agha Iqrar Haroon is a Development Observer. His area of work includes Central Asia and Eastern Europe region
Agha Iqrar Haroon is a Development Observer. His area of work includes Central Asia and Eastern Europe region

By Agha Iqrar Haroon

The nation is observing the first anniversary of attack on Army Public School (APS). This ambush conducted by Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) at Army Public School Peshawar on December 16, 2014 shall be remembered in the history of Pakistan for the extreme ruthlessness of TTP and its revenge taken from Pakistan Army (as claimed by TTP) and Pakistani Nation. Over 150 innocent persons including 130 school children were either slaughtered to death or were shot in their heads. TTP took responsibility of this massacre and released a statement in which it stated that it took revenge from Pakistan Army for killing Jihadis under operation Zarb-e-Azb.

Pakistan has gone a long way after this brutal attack to deal with terrorism. TTP is child of larger terrorists group known as Taliban while Taliban group was born by Mujahideen. Taliban rose to power in in Afghanistan in early 1996 with the alleged support of Pakistani establishment. Taliban used to live in restive parts of Federally Administrative Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khabay Pukhtun Khawa (KPK) province. Taliban are offshoot of Mujahideen who were raised by Pakistani establishment on the instructions of western world and GCC countries to wage war against Russians in early 80s. Mujahideen got power after defeating Russian-backed Afghan government in early 90s. A new group of mujahideen with a brand name of “Taliban” emerged on the scene and rose to power after defeating mujahideen who threw Afghanistan into civil war in late 90s. Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) came into being after Pakistan conducted action against Arab mujahideen who joined Taliban and were living in areas adjoining to Pak-Afghan border. These Arab mujahideen included Osama Bin Laden. Action of Pakistani establishment against Taliban on the instructions of western world was part of global war against terror that started after 9/11 tragedy. Yesterdays strategic assets of Pakistan became enemies for Pakistani establishment and this paradigm shift in Pakistani policy resulted a deep rooted enmity between former mujahideen (new brand name was Taliban) and Pakistani establishment. APS attack was the ultimate result of this enmity. The immediate cause of APS was launching of large scale operation against terrorism by Pakistan army under the name of Zarb-e-Azb in June 2014.

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On December 16, 2014, an outfit of TTP (brand name Toheedwal Jihad Group) terrorists stormed the army-run public school in Peshawar and carried out a massacre of nearly 150 persons mostly school children. Terrorists were receiving instructions directly from TTP leadership hiding in Afghanistan. The next day chief of Pakistan Army flew to Kabul and shared information with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and asked him to help to find TTP Chief Mullah Fazlullah who was living in Kunar province of Afghanistan.

This massacre of 130 children who belonged to the families of army officials jolted the entire country and civilian and military leadership jointly approved the 20-point National Action Plan (NAP) to eradicate terrorism from the country. Under the anti-terror national action plan, military courts were also set up across the country to speed up the trial of alleged terrorists.  Military courts tried some terrorists who facilitated to conduct APS attack. Four of such terrorists were hanged this week in Kohat jail after the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) General Raheel Sharif signed black warrants after rejection of their mercy appeal by President Mamnoon Hussain. Hanged terrorists include Maulvi Abdul Salam, Hazrat Ali, Mujeebur Rehman and Sabeel Ilyas Yahya.

Pakistan is fighting war against terrorism and terrorists while terrorists are waging so-called Jihad against Pakistan and the phenomenon that gave birth to terrorism is yet to be defeated or control effectively. The prime example of this lack of resolve to nab this phenomenon is presence of Mualana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid of Islamabad who refused to condemn APS attack but still active in the heart of capital and demanding same form of government Taliban had in Afghanistan. He still preaches and gives sermons justifying actions of terrorists against Pakistan Army and the state of Pakistan.

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APS attack and on-going global terrorism is linked historically with Operation Cyclone that was the code name for the United States program to arm and finance one particular school of thoughts of Islam to wage Jihad by financing Afghan mujahideen to fight with Russians who were tagged as “infidels”. The program leaned heavily towards supporting militant Islamic groups through the then COAS Pakistan Army Zia-ul-Haq. The Jihad that was launched 36 years ago is still continuing against “infidels” with a slight difference. In the beginning of Jihad, Russians were “infidels” for Jihadis but now Pakistan Army and common Pakistani is tagged as “infidels” by Jihadis. Brutal sword was crafted to slaughter the heads of infidels and now just heads are being changed in “onslaught” of this sword.

One year has passed and Pakistan is still trying to find Mullah Fazlullah who instructed for the massacre of children in APS and Afghan government is still reluctant to find Fazlullah and hand him over to Pakistan. The game of “Startegic Assets” is yet to be over.

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