Pakistani Taliban declare war on judiciary
By Syed Fazl-e-Haider
KARACHI - The Pakistani Taliban has declared a war on Pakistan's judiciary and announced it will suspend peace talks with the Pakistani government. At least four persons were killed and 30 injured including three policemen and a woman judge on Monday when two suicide bombers blew themselves up within the premises of the judicial complex in Peshawar, the capital of northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has accepted the responsibility for the suicide attack saying it is the beginning of a new battle against the judicial system which has failed to protect innocent citizens like Dr Aafia Siddiqui, an American-educated Pakistani cognitive neuroscientist imprisoned in the US.
Two suicide bombers on Monday stormed the crowded court
complex in the city of Peshawar and opened indiscriminate firing on the policemen performing guard duty at the entrance.
One suicide bomber threw a grenade in the court room of additional sessions judge Kulsoom Azam before blowing himself up, while the other bomber was shot dead by the police and the suicide jacket was defused by bomb disposal squad.
TTP spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan reportedly said the attack was in revenge ''for the failure of the country's judiciary to defend jailed Pakistani scientist Dr Aafia Siddiqui'' in the US. While speaking to the Dawn newspaper, Ehsan said the attack has been carried out by the outfit's ''Aafia Siddiqui Brigade''.
Siddiqui was arrested in Afghanistan by the US forces in 2003. She was indicted in New York Federal District Court in September 2008 on charges of attempted murder and assault stemming from an incident from an interview with US authorities in Ghazni, Afghanistan. Siddiqui however persistently denied the charges. After 18 months in detention, she was tried and convicted in early 2010 and sentenced to 86 years. Throughout the trial, the Pakistani government supported Siddiqui and her conviction resulted in protests across Pakistan.
Many political observers believe that the Taliban want to sabotage the general elections scheduled to be held in next two months and disrupt the democratic process by stepping up terror attacks across the country. TTP on Monday again warned the people to stay away from political gatherings of the liberal political parties including Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) and the Awami National Party (ANP), which are on TTP's hit list.
A surge in terrorist attacks before the start of election process may delay the elections.
''Security has been improved and will continue to be improved but these incidents will continue to happen, and the twenty days leading up to elections will see more activity'', Mian Iftikhar Hussain, the information minister of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa said while talking to a private TV channel. ''Even if you have very tight security, they planned to get around it. These terrorists have managed to get into GHQ [Pakistan Army headquarter], Naval base and police training centers. These terrorists are everywhere but we will persevere.''
The timing of Taliban's new war on judiciary raises many questions. The war should have been declared in 2010 when Siddiqui was convicted. Why is the judiciary being targeted now? The judiciary has emerged as first line of defense against all conspiracies against the continuation of the democratic process in the country. The judiciary is fully determined to protect democracy and it has repeatedly said that it would not allow any delay in the upcoming general elections. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammed Chaudhry has repeatedly declared that the democratic process must continue in the country under all circumstances and change should be brought only through elections.
On March 16, for the first time in the history of Pakistan, a democratically elected government on completed its full term in office. The Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs notified dissolution of the 13th National Assembly on completion of its five-year constitutional term at midnight on Saturday. The elections will take place within 60 days of dissolution of the assembly, the lower house of the parliament. It largely goes to the credit of judiciary, which has emerged more independent and powerful in the past three years to effectively block the doors to military intervention in political affairs on different pretexts.
The country has a troubled political history with frequent military interventions and derailment of democratic process. The powerful military ruled for half of the country's history. As a result of the continued conspiracies against democracy, no elected government could complete its constitutional tenure in the past.
The government of former prime minister and the founder of PPP Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was overthrown by then army chief General Ziaul Haq in July 1977. Bhutto, who served as 9th prime minister of the country 1973 to 1977, was arrested and hanged in 1979. Bhutto's daughter, the twice-elected prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was removed twice unconstitutionally and she was assassinated in December 2007 under General Pervez Musharraf's administration. Nawaz Sharif, twice-elected prime minister, was also removed twice unconstitutionally before completion of his five-year term.
The Supreme Court has now become so powerful in recent years that it last year sent the sitting Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani home over a contempt of court case. One can think not of a military coup but of a judicial coup in today's Pakistan, as the country is virtually witnessing a power shift from the military to the judiciary
Security is the biggest and the real challenge confronting the nation as it is poised to go into the election process. The TTP, the outlawed umbrella of militant groups, has been involved in a string of attacks on both Pakistani civilians and military personnel.
The Pakistani Taliban also announced on Monday that it was postponing the peace talks with the authorities. In a video released by the Taliban and sent to the local media, TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan claimed that the security forces and government are not serious about the peace dialogue, which is why the TTP have decided to postpone the peace talks.
Last month, the TTP offered to hold peace talks with the government. Pakistani Taliban had declared that they would hold negotiations if PML-N President Nawaz Sharif, JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Amir Syed Munawwar Hasan acted as guarantors for the talks.
Dawn recently commented, ''There is a disturbing, and perhaps not incidental, effect that the TTP's offer is having: injecting the militants into mainstream politics. Picking favorites, suggesting some parties are more reliable guarantors than others and explicitly marking some parties as targets of violence have the effect of arranging parties in some vague way in pro-Taliban and anti-Taliban camps. The politicians need to be unequivocal in their rejection of militancy and the Taliban's agenda. Or else the TTP may just end up hijacking the politicians' agendas.''
Syed Fazl-e-Haider (http://www.syedfazlehaider.com) is a development analyst in Pakistan. He is the author of many books, including The Economic Development of Balochistan (2004). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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