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Horseman Of The Apocalypse

Horseman Of The Apocalypse

Author: Amir Mir
Publication: Outlook
Date: March 7, 2007
URL: http://www.outlookindia.com/full.asp?fodname=20070305&fname=Pak+Bombers+%28F%29&sid=1

Introduction: Suicide bombers run amok in Pakistan. Call it an implosion of vengeful jehad.

From the rugged, lawless terrain of the tribal areas out west to the spiffy environs of Islamabad, the suicide bomber has made the whole swathe of land his laboratory-devastating lives, ruining families, imparting a murderous edge to humdrum existences.

Nobody and nowhere is even relatively exempt from his destructive desperation, his jehadi dreams: be it the omnipotent Pakistan president, Pervez Musharraf, or a lowly constable in a nondescript police outpost. What more proof than this: between January 22 and February 17 this year, suicide bombers self-detonated on eight occasions, killing 47.

Not long ago, human bombs were mere puzzling headlines for Pakistanis, a part of stories of death and destruction emanating out of troubled West Asia. Then America swaggered into neighbouring Afghanistan, and Pakistan personally experienced the mayhem a person strapped with explosives could unleash. On March 17, 2002, Pakistan had its first tryst with suicide-bombing: a man exploded himself in a church in Islamabad's diplomatic enclave, killing five. From then till February 17 this year, there have been 27 suicide bombings, according to interior ministry data, claiming 447 lives and injuring 824. That 10 of these should have occurred over the last 30 days is enough to convince you there's a veritable epidemic of human bombings-and bloody miseries.

There's no unifying theme to these bombings other than the avowed aim of purging the 'land of the pure' of forces representing the infidel. But the definition of the infidel is an ever-growing one, encompassing in the circle of hatred anyone whom the bomber, or his or her group, considers impure-from Western and American citizens to 'heretical' Shias to those Pakistanis assisting Washington's war on terror, including the Pakistani army and police and Musharraf and his men. Investigative agencies fear such incidents will only increase as wintry days evanesce into spring and the Taliban launches a fresh assault in Afghanistan. The blowback from there is expected to singe and kill Pakistanis.

The target of attacks is just about anyone, anywhere, particularly if he somehow represents the symbol of the state. Take some examples from the incidents of last month: a court room in Quetta, the posh Marriott Hotel in Islamabad where the Indian embassy was to host a Republic Day reception, the Islamabad airport parking. Partly, this random targeting is due to the tightening security around sensitive installations and high-risk officials following attempted suicide attacks on Musharraf in December 2003 and January 2004 and on prime minister Shaukat Aziz in June 2004. Unable to hit high-profile targets, the suicide bomber has plumped for softer options, including religious congregations and police personnel posted in civilian areas.

Investigations by Pakistani intelligence agencies have revealed the involvement of two kinds of extremist organisations in suicide bombings. The first sort are sectarian, primarily the banned militant Sunni group, the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). Launched in 1996 as a splinter group of the Sipah Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a Deobandi offshoot of the Jamait Ulema-e-Islam, LeJ is infamous for its secrecy, lethal nature and unrelenting pursuit of its aim of targeting Western interests in Pakistan, the Shias and the eventual transformation of the country into a Taliban-style Islamic state. LeJ has now become the group of choice for hard-core militants adamant on pursuing their jehadi agenda; its leadership comprises mostly those who fought in Afghanistan. It has let loose a reign of terror countrywide with its suicide attack squad.

The second kind are the pro-Taliban groups who're also linked to the Al Qaeda network based in the Waziristan region of the Pak-Afghan tribal belt.

Intelligence agencies have already concluded that Al-Jehad, a militant group based in North Waziristan, was involved in the November 2006 incident of suicide bombing that killed 42 soldiers of the Pakistan Army in Dargai, NWFP. The four recent suicide bombings in Islamabad, Dera Ismail Khan, Tank and Mir Ali allegedly have Al-Jehad's signature. They and other Islamic rebels allied to the Taliban and Al Qaeda have taken control of virtually the entire North Waziristan tribal area, thereby acquiring a significant base from which to wage their resistance against the US-led forces in Afghanistan as also the Pakistani security forces.

Al-Jehad has reportedly been formed by Abu Adil, a militant of Arab origin, with the prime objective of carrying out suicide attacks against important military and government figures whose actions in North and South Waziristan were detrimental to the interests of the Taliban. It's receiving help from the Maulana Abdul Jabbar-led Jamaatul Furqaan, a splinter group of the Maulana Masood Azhar-led Jaish-e-Mohammed. The split within the Jaish occurred after Masood Azhar removed Maulana Jabbar from his position as JeM's military commander and appointed his own brother, Mohammed Ibrahim, in his place.

Intelligence agencies believe that Jamaatul Furqaan is providing motivated suicide bombers to Al-Jehad, which has been involved in attacking the Pakistani security forces in Waziristan. The bombers are reportedly being trained at several religious seminaries situated in Miran Shah, capital of North Waziristan. The investigators believe these two groups have undertaken suicide bombings in retaliation against the killing of people in deadly missile strikes jointly carried out by Pakistani and American forces in Waziristan over the last two years. The desire for vengeance has inspired these groups to widen their search for targets beyond the tribal areas.

Political analysts say the origin of most of these militant outfits can be traced to those groups whom the Pakistani establishment provided institutional support to operate in Kashmir and Afghanistan. Outraged by Islamabad's reversal of its Kashmir and Afghanistan policies, the jehadi monster has taken to wreaking vengeance against those who he feels has betrayed him. And that means just about every Pakistani who's opposed to their Islamist agenda.

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