Children are our strategic assets, not Jihadists

AP photo



Imad Zafar

Frankenstein is a famous character from a British novel in which a young man attempts an experiment to give birth to a super human who should possess supernatural forces, but the experiment goes horribly wrong and, after coming to life, the monster created kills his creator. This story has a resemblance to our strategy of nurturing Jihadists and extremists under the state umbrella considering them as our strategic asset.

Somehow we supported and created Jihadi elements to protect our interests in regional and international proxy wars, but these elements turned against us and the ordinary citizens in Pakistan have for over a decade been paying the price for this horrible strategic mistake. One of these ‘Frankensteins’ is Ehsanullah Ehsan.

Ehsanullah Ehsan is a name that every Pakistani has been listening to for years. The former spokesperson of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Ehsanullah Ehsan was the person who used to be the face of the Taliban for accepting and taking responsibility for the deadliest terrorist attacks. From the Peshawar Army school massacre, Charsadda university killings and to the numerous incidents of terrorism across the country, he used to appear on the TV to claim responsibility for these brutal acts on behalf of the Taliban and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar.

In mid April Ehsanullah Ehsan was brought before the media and confessed that the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and other banned outfits had the backing of the Afghan national army and Indian intelligence agency RAW. According to sources Ehsanullah Eshan actually surrendered to Pakistani forces under a deal, struck with the help of an ex Taliban commander, Asmat Ullah Muavia, who is currently residing in Peshawar and surrendered to Pakistani forces a few years back. Sources state the deal is that Ehsanullah Eshan will not face any legal action against his acts of terrorism and will not be held accountable for any crimes, not in the military courts nor in the civil courts. He also will be provided a house, security and means of income to spend his life with his wife and child.

It appears to be similar to the deal Asmat Muavia struck, under which he resides in Peshawar. An organized soft image building campaign in this regard was run on the different media platforms to show a human side to this terrorist. A special interview with this terrorist was also organized on a mainstream news channel where he was shown talking about literature, poetry and even about his attempt to translate the famous Urdu poet Ahmad Faraz’s poetry into the Pashto language.

In his statement aired on Pakistani TV channels he was also shown saying that he always opposed the Taliban and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar’s connections with Indian spy agency RAW and that really put some serious questions on the Indian government’s claims of trying to make peace with Pakistan as, if RAW continues to attack Pakistani citizens through these terrorists, there will then be no hope of a serious peace dialogue. Ehsanullah Ehsan’s interview was not aired due to enormous public pressure and the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority, PEMRA, had to jump in to ban his interview.

But there is a clear sign that this terrorist has been given special treatment, the fresh face and confidence of Eshanullah Eshan says it all, that the sources who claimed he surrendered under an immunity deal were right. A terrorist who is responsible for taking the lives of thousands of people has been given a pardon under which law or on what kind of terms and conditions remains unknown.

The parents of the children who were brutally massacred by the Taliban in Peshawar have not given any pardon to him. No one has asked about pardoning Ehsanullah Ehsan from the parents of the students killed in the Charsadda university attac. Even the families of the soldiers who gave their lives just to bring peace and stop these terrorists are asked to pardon him. Has someone asked their widows or children about pardoning Ehsanulah Eshan?

The State sometimes has to take bitter decisions to get long term results and often the rebellions are given pardons, but not the terrorists. Pardoning Baloch rebellions and these terrorists of the Taliban are two different matters. These terrorists are trying to impose their set of beliefs and for that using religion as a shield, in the process killing thousands of adults and children across the country. These barbarians can never be pardoned without first obtaining approval from the relatives of the people who were killed during the terrorism incidents.

Forgiving a terrorist like Ehsanullah Ehsan means that we have forgiven the blood of our children and innocent people who lost their lives because of the terrorists. We all know that these terrorists were considered as strategic assets to counter Russia first in Afghanistan and then to counter India in Afghanistan. They were supported by the United States during the Afghan-USSR war and after that in the 80s, we adopted and started to use them as our strategic assets.

It only took a few years of Taliban rule in Afghanistan to show the barbarianism and inhumane attributes of these so called assets. After the 9/11 attack when the Taliban regime was overthrown and Afghanistan bombed by the NATO forces, these assets turned their guns towards their own creators, both the United States and Pakistan. Since then we in Pakistan have been the target of these assets, the suicide attacks have become a norm, the extremism is accepted; we live under a continuous state of fear and paranoia. Yet the policy of keeping these strategic assets is not being abolished.

These terrorists have a nexus in political parties, in law enforcement agencies and in the military. With the help of this nexus not only have they been killing thousands of innocent people but have also been very successful in manipulating the minds of people. The radicalization of our society and the extremist mindset is the result of nurturing and supporting these assets. Ehsanullah Ehsan and other assets like him will probably soon get a clean chit, and all the crimes they committed may be washed in a laundry of patriotism and vested national interest.

What our policy makers need to understand is that the policy of keeping these strategic assets at the cost of the future of millions of children is actually part of the problem, not the solution. The war against terrorism is an ideological battle, it is a fight between human beings and if winning this war with the military might was possible, the United States and NATO troops would have won it years ago but they could not. An ideolgy cannot be killed or finished with the gun, this ideological battle of the mindset is between the two different groups of people around the globe. At one end there are people who believe in peace and the colors of life and at the other end there are zombies like Ehsanullah Ehsan who are trying to force their absurd beliefs and ideologies with the force of gun.

The strategy to bank on the Jihadist and extremist organization for proxy wars has not proven fruitful for us. This strategy has in fact laid the foundation of a society based on intolerance and extremism. The Jihad culture promoted by the State during the different regimes is the reason for creating suicide bombers and producing a mindset that believes in the sword rather than using logical or critical thinking. Operation Zarb-e-Azb was a good one and Operation Radd-ul Fasaad also successful, launched by the Pakistani Army against the terrorists but these operations can only yield good results if the State decides to act against each and every banned outfit and organization without any discrimination. You cannot pick and choose the good terrorists and bad terrorists, as terrorists regardless of their loyalties are liabilities for the sympathizers.

We have seen it in the last twenty years and our civilians and soldiers have given their blood to keep the hope alive that one day peace and harmony will be back in our country. So the choice is very clear now, rather the establishment will keep making the same mistake by considering these elements as old friends thinking somehow they were misguided, but now after the surrender they are coming back, or the establishment can eliminate them. Of course the decision is in the hands of the establishment and they can make any decision, but watching Muavia and now Eshanullah Eshan going to live freely and with security on public tax money is not bearable.

On the other hand the strategic assets we prepared are now useless in the dialogue for power sharing in Afghanistan as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Hamid Karzai and Ashraf Ghani are now united and siding with India, in fact according to Eshanullah Eshan even the Taliban and Jamaat-ul-Ahrar are sponsored and used by RAW. Both Pakistan and India need to realize that they cannot settle their scores or win a war by fighting proxy wars or inciting terrorism on each other’s territories.

For us it is a high time to rethink, as by promoting Jihad culture we have actually prepared millions of minds who know nothing other than to kill or to be killed in the name of Jihadi religion and patriotism, thus closing the doors of economic and social development for ourselves. The world is planning to move on in the fields of medical science, information technology and spending billions of dollars in research and inventions, and the policy makers in Pakistan are still trying to make us live centuries behind the modern world.

This wrong policy is the reason why the whole world considers us a threat to peace like Afghanistan and points fingers at us for our hypocritical policies. Had there not been a back door and silent U.S. diplomatic support for Pakistan, we would have been declared a terrorist state by now as from Syria to Baghdad our Jihadis were found waging war on their soil in the name of Jihad.

Though the current military establishment has tried to correct this mistake by eliminating the hard core Jihadist elements, the mindset that prevails in society cannot be killed by weapons. It will take decades of hard work to change that narrative and for this, a serious effort is required. The fundamentalists who are apologists of Jihadists, the source of breeding extremism and are also responsible for  creating a mindset that does not accept logic, have to be stopped from using the space in media and educational institutes.

As a state we need to stop glorifying wars and have to tell the children that there is nothing good about war. There is no glory in death, in fact glory is a healthy and peaceful life, as it takes nothing to destroy anything, but takes courage and patience to build and contribute towards a peaceful society. The self created religious based theories which put hatred in the minds regarding other religions needs to be stopped. Children are our real strategic assets who can bring an element of sanity and progress in society in future. But if they are considered an asset, people like Eshanullah Ehsan are actually the burden on our new generations which they have to carry as a result of the wrong policies of the past.

It is time for the State to start taking the new generation as a strategic asset and spend heavily on their education and health, so they can compete in the developed world. Eshanullah Eshan and other terrorists like him are not our strategic assets, in fact they are our liabilities and we should always get rid of them as early as possible, instead of carrying them for the future.









Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar

Imad Zafar is a journalist based in Lahore. He is a regular Columnist/Commentator in newspapers. He is associated with TV channels, radio, newspapers, news agencies, political, policies and media related think tanks.


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