WEB DESK: Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says the murderous attack on the Bacha Khan University at Charsadda early this week is a ‘blowback’ of the Zarb-e-Azb’ campaign, resonating the military high command’s assertion that terrorists’ back has been broken. Yet, a year on, they succeeded in repeating their grisly pursuit by attacking an educational institution. Just as they struck the Army Public School in Peshawar, they entered the varsity campus by scaling its boundary wall.
The hounded out students and teachers in classrooms and dormitories and as they went about, they remained in touch with their masters across the border in Afghanistan. Except for the fact that on the university campus they encountered resistance by security guards; and army jawans reached there in time to take care of all four gunmen. Therefore, the death toll was relatively not big. This attack closely resembled their strike on the school. But what is different now and must play out differently from before is General Raheel Sharif’s straight talk with the Afghan leadership at the top and the Nato commander in Afghanistan, General John Campbell.
“As (for) investigations and leads so far, the Charsadda attack was being controlled from a location in Afghanistan through a cell phone of a TTP operative,” says ISPR chief Lieutenant General Asim Bajwa. That the mastermind of the attack on the university is the same Mulla Fazlullah, who had ordered the attack on the APS, is beyond any doubt now. The question is will he keep enjoying the Afghan hospitality? Will he also continue to enjoy protective custody and financial support of some rogue elements in Kabul? KP Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak has accused Indian intelligence agency RAW of involvement. In the wake of the murderous attack on the Bacha Khan University by someone comfortably ensconced in Afghanistan, the Pak-Afghan rapprochement has arrived at the cusp. Pakistan should be striving to facilitate intra-Afghan reconciliation process but the Kabul rulers play host to Mulla Fazlullah and that is not on.
It is our expectation that he would be arrested and handed over to the Pakistani authorities. If he remains beyond the reach of Afghan government then the American troops, duly empowered now to target Islamic State fighters in Afghanistan, should go after him. For Pakistan he is as dangerous as the ISIL is for others in the region and beyond. Without him being collared and tried the ongoing anti-terrorism drive in Pakistan would not reach its logical conclusion.
He neither fits the definition of an insurgent like the Afghan Taliban are nor does he qualify for asylum; he is simply a criminal and should be arrested and extradited to Pakistan. Given that it is beyond Pakistan’s capacity to secure and protect all schools and universities, Fazlullah’s band of terrorists would have the leverage to keep striking soft targets, like the Bacha Khan University. Also given that the attack on the university has been condemned by all sections of public, particularly the religious parties, he comes about as a criminal bereft of any sentimental religiosity. As we demand extradition of Fazlullah we also expect of our political elite, on both sides of the aisle in parliament, to take over from the military the gains made by the Operation Zarb-e-Azb for a follow-up action.
The forces can do only as much; how to consolidate these gains falls in the domain of political leadership. But, unfortunately, the follow-up action is not only patchy but also in some ways counterproductive. Undoubtedly, the National Action Plan (NAP) embodies the consensus of political parties across the board, but its application does not. At times, it appears as if combating terrorism is military’s responsibility and the others have nothing to do with it. That is not the case now; it is a national cause, which has a clear precedence over anything else.