Rise of the Punjabi Taliban and Pakistan's security situation
Burraq | Terminal X Exclusive
LAHORE: After a pause of more than a year, Lahore witnessed a major act of terrorism on Thursday (July 12th, 2012) when 'Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan
' militants decided to hit a soft target. It was a hostel located in Rasool Park, Samnabad, which is a densely populated residential area. The hostel building was occupied by 30 trainee policemen belonging to prison security police, a federally controlled force.
The trainees belonged to the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and were staying in Lahore for a training course which was due to complete in a few days. On the morning of 12th July, at around 5:50 am local time, militants attacked the hostel. Reports suggest that they traveled to the location on three motorcycles and a Suzuki Cultus car; they were armed with AK-47s and hand grenades. According to IG Punjab, the attackers were 10 in number.
The first victim to be shot was a police trainee who was standing outside the gate of the hostel to attend a phone call. After hitting him, the terrorists started to kick the main gate of the hostel which was locked from the inside. When they broke into the main entrance, the terrorists threw two hand grenades, one of which failed to explode and was later recovered by the Lahore Police. After this, the attackers chanted slogans of "Allah-o-Akbar"
and started firing indiscriminately in every direction. When everyone on the first floor was hit, the terroorists searched the building and didn't leave a single room without firing in it with their AK-47s.
Some of the trainees saved their lives by taking refuge in a washroom, others ran towards the rooftop and jumped off to other buildings. Two of the terrorists chased the trainees and fired on the roof of the hostel. In about 5-10 minutes, terrorists accomplished their task and fled the scene unhindered.
This attack resulted in martydom of 9 policemen while 8 others were wounded.
The attack left a question mark on the security apparatus of Punjab. Some reports suggest that the Government of Punjab had intel about such an attack, this is the reason why security was beefed up a couple of days earlier in the provincial capital.
The TTP spokesman confirmed that their organisation was involved in the attack and claimed full responsibility, according to his interview to AFP. He said, these policemen were attacked because his comrades in prison "are not treated well" by the personnel of prison department in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
This was a very sophisticated and planned attack as the terrorists had maximum details of the target. The shocking part to all this is that TTP's intelligence network was so strong that they found out where police trainees belonging to KPK province were residing, which Lahore police itself didn't know until the attack took place. One can call it a security lapse but the fact is, there was no security at first place, these trainees were provided with no weapons for their safety and no armed security personnel was present near the hostel when attack took place.
Earlier this week, TTP attacked an Army Camp in Wazirabad which resulted in martrdom of 7 soldiers. The attack in Lahore was a similar one: the execution was same and attackers came and divided themselves in 3 groups.
The Wazirabad incident followed with the arrests of 5 members of TTP Asmatullah Moavia group, who the Security Forces claim were involved in the attack. More apprehensions are expected to follow soon.
In past few days, the TTP has shown their power in the urban areas. As tribal region is very much in control of the Military, TTP is not much active in those areas and only execute some cross-border attacks from Afghanistan. But the difference with the urban areas is that it's very difficult to locate these elements in densely populated cities; they operate in the cover of different religious outfits. Punjab has been a breeding ground for many extremist organisations and the group responsible for these attacks is also an alliance of many of the small banned outfits which operate under the name of TTP as its Punjab faction.
This man, Asmatullah Moavia, is one of Pakistan's most wanted terrorist and head of the TTP in Punjab. He is also credited for establishing the TTP's Punjab chapter.
He belongs to Vehari, a city of Punjab province. Like most of the militants who are now operating under the umbrella of TTP in Punjab, he was once affiliated with Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) and according to some reports, he was once a member of 'Jaish-e-Muhammed'
as well. As he went to Afghanistan numerous times, he developed close contacts with the TTP and Al-Qaeda, this later became the reason for his establishing TTP's Punjab fraction.
According to some unconfirmed reports, he was arrested from Laki Marwat, KPK on March 11th this year, but there are no official statements about it. Whether he's in custody or not, his group has proved its activeness in these recent attacks.
The solution to this problem is not just taking out the terrorists, but their breeding grounds as well. Punjab's rural areas, especially South Punjab, has been a recruitment hub for extremist organisations. As intelligence reports also suggest that Asmatullah Moavia was the main agent for the TTP's recruitment activities in Punjab, he's a trained hard-liner Mullah who's very good at brainwashing techniques.
Now coming back to the Punjab's militant breeding centres, South Punjab's madrassahs have been providing many young fighters for the TTP. The main issue in this region is lawlessness. SSP, LeJ and other such groups organise public rallies and meetings openly, the 'ban' by Islamabad on these groups is not very effective in these areas.
TTP's media wing prefer Asmatullah Moavia to 'act'
in its videos, his hate speeches have proved to be very effective in brainwashing young minds. In South Punjab, it's not very difficult to get a TTP video CD as the madrassahs have plenty of such material available. As we go on analysing the role of these religious schools in recruiting extremist elements, it must be noted that there are many which are working in the boundaries of the law, not all the madarassahs are involved in these activities.
Asmatullah Moavia when formed TTP Punjab's fraction, his first aim was to gather all like-minded people from different religious outfits and he was very successful in spreading his network across Punjab. He is also accused of providing chemicals to TTP from textile mills in Punjab which was later used as explosives in the infamous Marriott Hotel Islamabad bombings in September 2008. This is one of his many terrorist activities which prove that he has a powerful intelligence and support network working in Pujnab.
Government agencies are reluctant to take actions against all these banned groups at once as they fear a backlash, but the fact of the matter is, SSP, LeJ and TTP are all interlinked and they support each other's areas of operations: one provides manpower, the other logistics and they help each other in their areas of influence. For example, the recent attack in Lahore was planned by central TTP leadership, the manpower and logistics were provided by TTP's Punjab chapter and it was also executed by the latter. TTP Punjab or Punjabi Taliban as sometimes the media calls them mostly have locals of Punjab as operators, in fact as pointed out earlier in the article, Asmatullah Moavia sends his men to fight in tribal regions as well. In Pakistan Army's Operation Raah e Raast
(2009) in Swat, some of the militants killed by security forces belonged to different areas of Punjab as well, and there's a lot of them who were apprehended during the operation who ethnically belong to Punjab.
Since Punjab is the most populous province of Pakistan, it's difficult for Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) to operate against terrorits in heavily populated cities and towns (urban areas).
As shocking as it would be for some people to know, TTP also operates in major cities of Punjab, for example, Lahore. They are not as open as they are in rural areas but they do work under the cover of different religious organisations. It is a complicated network they have: an individual belonging to a non-militant religious organisation maybe working for TTP in disguise. They choose to remain in refuge of these outfits as they provide the best cover for them. They gather only when they have to execute a attack, but most of them actually never meet each other, they just act as the 'financial'
The frontline militants are indeed a danger but the helping hands behind them pose a greater threat as they remain while most of the times the frontline militants are killed in LEAs' actions.
Solution lies in acting against these groups as early as possible; the more they stay active, the better their network will be. Pakistan's internal security is at an alarming low at the moment and it cannot afford these types of attacks any longer.
Pakistan's internal intelligence network, even after a decade of facing terrorism, is still very weak. The unfortunate part is, there is no coordination between different LEAs. When an attack is smelled in advance, even then the required security is not provided. Pakistan needs to strengthen its frontline defence in urban areas which is the police. Most of the Elite Force Commandos in Punjab are on private VIP duties for self-centred politicians. It is about time that these commandos won't be able to protect those politicians if general public and LEAs are kept on targeted with this courage in broad daylight by terrorists.
The defence lies in offence now: Act before they act
, this is what the Security Forces should be following now or we can wait for more attacks, God Forbid.
The power circles of the country are in deep sleep now, they are not expected to be awake before it's too late. My advice to the Security Forces is simple: Do not wait for more martyrs, avenge the killings of your comrades as they left a burden on you; a duty to protect this motherland from these local assets playing in foreign hands.
Rise of the Punjabi Taliban and Pakistan's security situation ~ Terminal X