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    South Asia
     Nov 7, '13

Mehsud: A terrorist not a hero
By Tahir Mahmood

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

A hue and cry is being made about the death of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone attack. The Pakistani media, some mainstream political leaders and the government have all displayed strong reactions to the strike and termed it as an attempt to sabotage the peace process with the Taliban.

The government in Islamabad officially protested to the United States for the drone strike and killings. A US State Department official not only rejected the protest but also any insinuation that

that the assassination of Mehsud was intended to affect the talks and peace process. Blocking North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supplies that transit Pakistan into Afghanistan is being proposed by religious parties and at the same time Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and opposition leader Imran Khan are both considered as having soft corners for the Taliban.

The United States has been conducting drone attacks in tribal areas of Pakistan for more than six years, including many strikes in the past few months. Why so strong a reaction this time? Anger and outrage seem strange, as if the killing of a topmost terrorist was a great loss to Pakistan. The protests against the drone attacks are legitimate, as the attacks are an affront to the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Pakistan, but the response to this particular strike sends a negative message.

It is beyond any dispute for Pakistanis that Hakimullah Mehsud was a terrorist who was responsible for most of the acts of terrorism and the killings of thousands of innocent citizens in the past five years. The TTP does not accept the constitution of Pakistan and the legitimacy of its state organs. It didn't stop killing innocent people even after the recent initiation of a peace-dialogue process. The deaths of Christian worshippers in a Peshawar blast, the killing of civil servants in a bus blast in the same city, and many other terrorist acts took place in last two months after the process of talks was underway.

Those showing outrage and sympathy at the death of terrorists were not so vocal when terrorists were brutally killing innocent people. It must be hurting the families of victims when a section of the news media and some leaders show support for the terrorists on one pretext or another.

It has been claimed that Mehsud's death has halted the peace process, but in reality dialogue had never began, nor was it on track. The Taliban openly refused talks within the ambit of the constitution of Pakistan, terming it as un-Islamic and the Pakistan government as a slave of the United States. Militant groups had increased the frequency of their terrorist acts in recent months. Despite this, they were able to assert pressure indirectly on the government to protest against drone strikes - as these strikes hurt them the most.

Sharif and his government were under pressure for the lack of progress on talks with the Taliban after being mandated to start a dialogue by the All Parties Conference over two months ago, but now Mehsud's killing has presented them with an excuse for the lack of progress, allowing them to claim that American drones have sabotaged the talks. The government never assigned similar blame to the TTP or other militants when they attacked Christians or killed the General Officer in command of the Swat Valley.

Now a wave of sympathy is being generated over the death of a most wanted terrorist, dressed in the garb of the legitimate concern of the whole Pakistani nation over drone strikes.

Drone attacks, and especially civilian causalities in drone strikes, must be strongly condemned and all possible measures must be taken to safeguard Pakistan's sovereignty, but that should not further the cause of terrorism or give an impression of singing a tune on behalf of terrorists. The result is to divide the masses over the legitimacy of combating terrorism.

The nation must decide once and for all and with total clarity about who is hero for the nation and who is terrorist responsible for thousands of innocent killings, otherwise Pakistan will continue to suffer the consequences of deeper division.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing. Articles submitted for this section allow our readers to express their opinions and do not necessarily meet the same editorial standards of Asia Times Online's regular contributors.

Tahir Mahmood is an Islamabad-based writer who hold a Master's Degree In International Relations.

(Copyright 2013 Tahir Mahmood)

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