Anti-militancy drive and crossfire….
There are several issues related to the activities of the non-state actors that have put the people and the nation in a state of great discomfort and we can do without the state actors adding to it. Take the case of the recent anti-militancy operation. Perhaps even the Normandy landings were not as heralded as the recent drive against militants, with day and time pre announced by the police through a public statement. It was like announcing the start of the "Police Week." Whoever has heard the hunter going after a special category of hunted with prior notice? And right after the end of seven days it was concluded with as much heraldry as the commencement.
One wonders whether this is really the way to commence a drive against terrorist and militants! And are such drives restricted to a particular number of days only? Without sounding brash we say that those who do so and those who rationalise it through semantics, circumlocution and verbal subterfuge in various fora like the so called talk shows, are following a different text book on extremism. This is not our understanding of the phenomena or about the ways and means of combating them. Surely militants must be gone after, pursued physically and hounded out, but such operations must be based on specific intelligence in specific location and pinpoint targets. Anti and counter extremism or militancy is a different ball and must be played seriously.
Even combing operations must be based on actionable intelligence not on optimistic drives that achieve substantive little. And every operation is judged by the output. What really is the output of the seven day drive? We are told that of the more than 13000 rounded up less than 200 are listed militants. The rest, as the administration would want us to believe, are listed criminals. If that be so, should we be not alarmed at the fact that so many thousands of listed criminals had been roaming the countryside for so long. And isn't going after such category of people routine work of the agencies? Nobody can take issue with the police launching special operations from time to time, but that should be, as the name suggests, "Special". Arresting listed criminals are routine work whereas anti-extremist operations are a continuous and dynamic process. It remains to be seen how many of the listed criminals will be eventually charged and put through the process of trial.
We should feel happy that the police have been able to round up 189 'listed militants'. It speaks of the very good intelligence of the intelligence agencies that they have been able to cull the names of the militants and their address too, but the question is why did they have to wait for the special drive and not pick them up sooner. What one interested in now is how the police deal with the 'listed extremists'.
If the recent instances are anything to go by, the disposal of at least two alleged extremists linked with the recent targeted killings, the crossfire deaths carry the wrong message to the people. In fact, in the seven days of the special drive 20 people were killed in 'shootouts' of which seven were suspected militants. And the circumstances and explanation of the deaths are too puerile for anyone to believe. Was it not in the interest of the police to keep Mukul aliases Sharif alive because he was alleged to be involved in the planning and attack on six of the victims of targeted killing?
If we are to take the explanations of the deaths in encounter as true, then the extremist appear to be far better equipped with precision weapons to pick a single target in the midst of a number of policemen guarding that person, that too in the very early hours of the morning. The extremist did not have the benefit of protection of personal safety gear like bullet proof vest. Obviously the terrorists are better informed about the movement of the police than the police about theirs. In other circumstances such catches are paraded in front of the journalists and produced before them in full panoply of protective gears. There are so many holes in the crossfire narrative that it is evident that no homework was done before spinning the stories. There is also mystery surrounding the arrest of Sharif, whose real name is Mukul with umpteen aliases.
There are so many unanswered questions that reveal the opacity of the security agencies in handling the most sensitive matter related to the security of the country. And all these must be addressed if the security agencies want the public to put faith in what the law enforcing agencies claim.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.