Taliban’s threat to media
According to a BBC Urdu service report, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakeemullah Mehsud has issued ‘special directions’ to his subordinates in different cities of Pakistan to target Pakistani and international media groups. This is the TTP’s response in anger at the critical coverage the media across the board has given to the assassination attempt on Malala Yousafzai. On the government’s part, the threat is being taken seriously.
The Federal Interior Ministry says intelligence agencies have intercepted a telephone conversation between Hakeemullah Mehsud and a subordinate, Nadeem Abbas alias Intiqami, in which the TTP chief directed Abbas to attack media organisations that denounced the TTP after the Malala incident. The cities specified to be targeted are Karachi, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Islamabad and others. Clearly, this is as wide as media targeting can get. The Interior Ministry in response has issued orders to beef up security at the offices of media organisations by deploying additional police. If needed, the government will deploy the Frontier Constabulary as reinforcements. The ministry has also cautioned religious scholars who had publicly denounced the Taliban following the attack.
The countrywide revulsion against the targeting by the TTP of a 14-year-old girl whose only ‘crime’ was standing up defiantly against the Taliban’s campaign to bring a halt to education in general, and girls education in particular, in areas under their influence was also reflected in media coverage of the event. Our lively media rarely converges on such a consensus on anything. When it does, things cannot remain the same and the pressure of public opinion generated as a result of this media consensus tends to force the authorities’ hand to respond to the issue.
To their credit, the authorities, from the government to the armed forces, have unanimously come to the conclusion that enough is enough. Now what remains to be seen is how this convergence translates into action. The reports about finally firmly grasping the nettle that is North Waziristan, the hotbed and safe haven of the Taliban, are a hopeful sign, despite the military’s reiteration of the need for a political decision before an offensive can be launched. The apprehension all along about military action in North Waziristan has been the adverse asymmetrical effect in the form of a terrorist blowback throughout the country.
By its very nature, the protagonists of such warfare retreat before overwhelming force deployed against them and strike elsewhere so as to distract and stretch out the security forces, which inevitably produce gaps in the security network. It is imperative therefore that unlike previous military campaigns, including the ones in Swat and South Waziristan, any campaign against the terrorists holed up in North Waziristan must take into account and pre-empt the militants’ ability to melt away into other areas in the face of a military offensive, to live and fight another day.
Any offensive in North Waziristan therefore must treat the requirements of the theatre as a whole, cut off retreat routes, and at the same time brace for terrorist attacks elsewhere in Pakistan. Bitter as the harvest of a North Waziristan offensive has the potential to reap, there is now no escape from taking out these fanatics and cleansing the soil of Pakistan from such inimical forces that threaten the best values of our state and society. *