The military establishment, especially ISPR statements since operation Zarb-e-Azb commenced, would have us believe that in its changed worldview there is no more a distinction in types of Taliban; that the military is going after ‘all’ Taliban including the erstwhile good ones. Perhaps the ISPR should clarify that it defines the term ‘Taliban’ very narrowly. Indeed it should name the few Islamist militant groups it is going after, as the public generally misunderstood the ISPR statements to mean the military will henceforth eschew reliance on, and relationships with, all Islamist militants.

Taha Siddiqui’s shocking story in the press only a couple of days before outlined in detail ‘charity’ activities of two militant organisations in Bannu. It appears Lashkar-e-Tayyaba (LeT) has now renamed itself Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) and has a food and medical aid relief camp to serve the Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) openly. This group’s spectacular attack on Mumbai in 2008 brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war. And whilst there were testimonies and accusations of an in-service ISI handler working with the group at the time, the military and ISI denied any such links. Several theories floated around including the possibility of some rogue officer working with the group. Yet now, Siddiqui’s story quotes one young FIF volunteer at the relief camp saying, ‘The Pakistan Army is really cooperative towards us.’ This cooperation cannot be from a rogue element, as large contingents of the military are present in Bannu and it appears there is official approval for these militants to work freely with the IDPs. The full quotation from the youngster is the shocker: ‘We were the first ones to set up a greeting camp to receive the IDPs even though that area was in the red zone. This is the time to win the hearts and minds of these refugees, whom the government is failing. And the North Waziristan people are grateful to us. Many of them have promised to work for us – and that too for life.’

What is going on is so evident, that one struggles to make it plainer. LeT/JuD/FIF was the first to open a ‘greeting’ camp, and is openly recruiting future militants, while the military is fighting its older monsters. Has this institution learnt absolutely nothing from its past mistakes? And the mistakes were no ordinary ones. Creation of jihadi factories and non-state ‘actors’ and outsourced violence has caused Pakistan existential crises. Yet, while the state has belatedly decided to go after every stripe of ‘Taliban’, it is refusing to cut itself off from several other groups that have purportedly not turned their guns on Pakistan yet. Masood Azhar’s Al-Rehmat Trust fronting the Azad Kashmir based Jaish-e-Mohammed is the other organization revealed by the story to be running relief camps in Bannu openly. These chaps casually told Siddiqui they are involved in Jihad in Afghanistan and Kashmir even today. Their displayed posters invited recruits to join Jihad in Syria.

For the military establishment to believe that these characters and their violent organisations are not focused on fighting the state itself is absolutely fallacious. Simply because they are not yet attacking installations or military personnel does not mean they are pro-Pakistan. When they kill Pakistani people who are Shia, Ahmadi, Hindu, Christian and Sikh, they are attacking Pakistan. When they kill dozens and take dozens hostage in neighbouring countries, they are attacking Pakistan. When they hijack foreign airliners, they are attacking Pakistan. When they attack foreign consulates in third countries, they are indeed attacking Pakistan. None of our neighbours likes us, nor wants to work with us because of exactly these groups and our erstwhile brothers, the Taliban. Indeed, there are no real differences in their ideologies. There is only a difference of where these groups are on a timeline. The Taliban have crossed the point in time where state created mercenaries turn against the state overtly. The LeT/FIF and Jaishs of this world are simply behind but will get there very soon.

These revelations would not be so shocking but for the second part of Siddiqui’s story: the ‘authorities’ are actually not permitting just anyone to set up relief camps in Bannu. No, the authorities are actually asking anyone wanting to help the IDP’s to apply for no-objection certificates. And one representative of a non-religious, non-militant organization from the tribal belt itself stated that his organization was not being allowed to set up a relief camp. So there is an actively positive attitude towards islamist militants in evidence. One might have forgiven ignorance or apathy on part of the state, but this is collusion without a doubt.

Pakistani people cannot travel abroad without polio vaccinations. Pakistanis are not welcomed in any foreign countries. Foreign airlines are beginning to reduce flights to Pakistan. Investment rushed out years ago. Every one of these isolating eventualities is directly linked to the terrorism our state nurtured and exported. And though according to the military it is not differentiating between groups of Taliban now, it continues to support those Islamist militants that make no bones of carrying out attacks in foreign countries. How is this even sane anymore?

As for the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa government, Imran Khan and PTI, contempt is the most benign reaction this situation engenders for the lot of them. They have ditched their first love, the tribals, on whose back they won the elections last year. Their election rhetoric stands exposed like a hideous ghoul. This leader and this government are nowhere to be seen except in cities of Punjab with plans of marching on Islamabad, going on and on about four seats that may or may not have been rigged. Their government has also left the field wide open for these militant organisations to win the hearts and minds of the IDPs, while they run around doing Jalsas and talking of hanging policemen.

The writer is a human rights worker and freelance columnist.

gulnbukhari@gmail.com

@gulbukhari