by Zia Sarhadi (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 52, No. 12, Rajab, 1444)
The January 30 terrorist attack on a mosque inside the Police Headquarters in Peshawar has led to wild speculation about the perpetrators. The explosion was so massive that it caused the roof to collapse resulting in 101 deaths—all but three of them policemen. They were gathered for midday prayers. At least 217 others were injured.
Explosive experts say that the collapsed roof points to the fact that at least 100 kgs of explosives were used. The 10-12 kgs of explosives strapped to the vest of the suicide bomber could not have caused such damage. Further, if the blast was caused only by a suicide bomber, there would be damage to the mosque floor as well. There was none.
This immediately raises the question about how such huge quantities of explosives could be brought inside the mosque that is situated deep inside the heavily-fortified police headquarters in the provincial capital that is located in the Red Zone (high security zone). Incidentally, the building is named after a daring police officer Malik Saad Khan Bangash, who was martyred in 2007 while chasing the terrorists.
The KPK Inspector General of Police, Muazzam Jah Ansari, told the media that the suicide bomber has been identified from CCTV footage. He entered the area dressed as a policeman and was, therefore, not searched. That still leaves the question of the huge quantity of explosives brought in. Surely, even a suicide bomber could not have strapped 100 kgs to his body.
Media reports in Pakistan say it was the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The banned terrorist outfit had announced on November 28, 2022 that it was ending its ceasefire with the government. It was already tenuous but soon thereafter, it escalated attacks. The first occurred in Islamabad where a policeman was killed at a checkpoint when he attempted to stop a suicide bomber. This was followed by the more daring operation at the Counter-Terrorism Centre (CTC) in the southern KPK city of Bannu on December 18, 2022. The CTC is located inside the military garrison. How could TTP terrorists enter the military garrison and take at least 40 police personnel hostage?
There have definitely been security and intelligence lapses in these escalating attacks. Some astute observers, among them retired army officers like Haider Mehdi and Adil Raja, have gone further. In their Vlogs, they point the finger straight at the former army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa, his successor Asim Munir, Director General ISI Nadeem Anjum and Director General ISI-Counter-terrorism, Major General Faisal Naseer. In June 2021, Bajwa had proposed to the cabinet that the government should bring in the TTP by releasing its members from prison. There was vehement opposition to the proposal from several cabinet members.
Acting as the sole authority, despite having no constitutional authority to do so, Bajwa still went ahead and released 100 TTP terrorists in November 2021. This was followed in June 2022 by releasing some of their top leaders. Not only did he have no legal authority to do so, the more serious question is, why did Bajwa act this way? Was he carrying out the orders of his bosses in the Pentagon? The consequences have been devastating for the country.
Coupled with Pakistan’s bankrupt economy, the direct result of political instability caused by the removal of Imran Khan from office on April 9, 2022 through a US-army engineered coup, chaos is deliberately being created. The army, taking its orders from the US, does not want elections to be held in Pakistan. They fear that Imran Khan’s party would sweep the polls and with a two-thirds majority in parliament, he would amend the constitution curtailing the military’s powers.
Pakistan’s unelected rulers and bosses are simply not prepared to let go of their monopoly on power. They are busy creating more instability as well as involved in political engineering by cobbling together a king’s party. Recent resignations of members of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz group), People’s Party and other opportunistic politicians to jump on the new political bandwagon all point to this scenario.
While poverty has increased with skyrocketing prices, life has become intolerable for ordinary people. The misery index will go up many degrees as the IMF has imposed new stringent conditions before providing a bail-out package of some $7 billion. The Fund’s conditions include increasing fuel prices that are already extremely high, removing subsidies for exports and floating the rupee against the dollar.
“Our economic challenge at this moment is unimaginable. The conditions we have to fulfil [to complete the IMF review] are beyond imagination,” the US-army imposed prime minister Shehbaz Sharif admitted.
The dollar-rupee rate has plunged to Rs 276. Even at this rate, dollars are simply not available in the market. The government’s coffers are empty. Financial experts say the exchange rate will surpass Rs 300/dollar.
With a serious trust deficit, overseas Pakistanis, who were the biggest earners of foreign exchange during Imran Khan’s government, have drastically cut their remittances. The country’s total reserves stand at $3.6 billion but this is money deposited by other governments and cannot be disbursed.
Even if granted, the IMF bailout package will be merely a stop-gap measure. Pakistan needs a lot more than this amount to pay the interest on its mountain of debt. This has been accumulated over the years to pay for the rapacious lifestyle of its elite. Most of the money has been pilfered out of the country to buy properties abroad or stash it away in foreign banks.
There is a long list of crooks and other assorted criminals that have stolen the country’s wealth. The Sharif family, Zardaris and an army of generals and judges have all had their snouts in trough. The overwhelming majority of people do not pay taxes. The thieves at the top also do not pay for electricity and get free fuel for their vehicles. Corruption has been institutionalized.
Such lifestyle is unsustainable. It can only be ended if those plundering state resources are held accountable. That will not happen unless there is a representative government with a strong mandate to introduce changes in the constitution that would put an end to such practices.
The campaign of terror unleashed against critics of the entrenched elite, whether in uniform or civilian clothes, and the arrest and torture of journalists and senior members of Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaf (led by Imran Khan) all point to the fact that the power-wielders will not give up without a fight. Since they want a fight, let the people give them one.
Unless the people rise up to smash this corrupt system and drag its beneficiaries into the streets beating them to death, there is little hope for Pakistan. Time is running out; the people have to decide quickly otherwise they will be starved to death, the country broken up and the elite and their families will simply flee. They already have palatial homes in Britain, Belgium, France, the US and Canada.