Nabeel Zafar describes the
current state of turbulence
It was widely propagated that Increasing militancy in Pakistan has valiantly surmounted the challenge of terrorism and for a time it was acknowledged that terrorists were retreating. The people felt reassured that the country has overcome this scourge and they felt free to move about without fear of a sudden terrorist-inflicted outrage. This fact was also recognised internationally encouraging the holding of cricket matches in the country. However, slowly people started witnessing the resurgence of terrorism that initially was confined to outer reaches of the border are but then the urban areas began to become targets of terrorist activities in the country. Almost all major cities of the country were subjected to outrages perpetrated by the terrorists and suddenly nothing felt save anymore. The situation has gone from bad to worse causing serious jitters amongst the ranks of the ruling apparatus that is now bracing up to face this new challenge. It also appears that the heightened coverage of terrorist activities has also resulted in making them more significant unnerving the widest sections of populace.
The dangerous trend of rising militancy made the National Security Committee (NSC) to parley emphasised that the terrorists are the enemies of Pakistan and it vowed to respond with full force to those who challenge the country. During the meeting, the heads of intelligence institutions gave a detailed briefing to the participants on the law and order situation in the country particularly about the recent wave of terrorism and steps they have devised to tackle it. The participants also paid tribute to the sacrifices of the martyrs against terrorism, expressed sympathy and condolence to their families, and collectively prayed for the elevation of the ranks of the martyrs.
This meeting assumed tremendous importance in wake of the worsening law and order situation over the past few months with terrorist groups like the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the Islamic State group, and Gul Bahadur Group executing attacks with near impunity across the country. In addition, insurgents in Balochistan have also stepped up their violent activities and formalised a nexus with the TTP. The incident at the Khyber-Pakh¬tunkhwa police’s Counter-Terrorism Department interrogation centre in Bannu and the botched suicide bombing attempt in Islamabad not only set off alarm bells in the power corridors but also left several countries worried about the security of their nationals. The US, UK, Australia and Saudi Arabia have issued advisories asking their nationals to restrict movements in Pakistan and avoid non-essential trips.
The earlier so-called peace of the border areas was a forced acceptance of a status quo during which a harassed displaced people were not allowed to talk and if they did they could narrate their woes only in hushed tones. The fact that the Taliban’s re-conquest of Afghanistan has emboldened their brethren in Pakistan that they are steadily reclaiming their lost hold in border areas of Pakistan is not openly acknowledged. The situation was exacerbated when the official line taken was to support the Afghan Taliban takeover of Kabul and there was even celebration within the Pakistani mainstream at the fact that a friendly government had yet again been installed in Kabul.
In this mindset what could be expected of the militant fringe that could not exercise control over anything in Afghanistan and has been assured of a separate part of tribal area of Pakistan to be given to rule as a buffer. It is more than clear that the Taliban government in Kabul is certainly not singing uncritically to Islamabad’s tune and is upending the strategic depth concept pursued by Pakistani establishment much to its chagrin and rendering it virtually helpless. It is also clear that unlike in the past the people of borderlands will not stand idle and will resist making matters doubly difficult for law enforcers.
Ever since the banned TTP repudiated its truce with Pakistani authorities in November of last year, and that too unilaterally, there has been an alarming rise in the frequency of attacks in which security personnel have been martyred or wounded. In fact, according to figures collected by an Islamabad-based think tank, Pakistan lost over 280 security personnel last year, with December being particularly deadly. It is mentioned in this respect, both in terms of intelligence gathering and counterterrorism training, there is a dire need for the security forces to stay two steps ahead of the militants. This is especially true for those on the front line in the battle against terrorist violence, namely the military units concerned and the counterterrorism departments of the provincial police forces.
While confronting the militants it must be kept in view that the type of terrorist activities waging insurgency against the state comprise of elements that could never be counted as symptomatic of conventional enemies as they are irregular foes using asymmetric methods making it all the more difficult for the security forces to marshal required tactics to confront them. Keeping in view this unconventional danger it has become imperative to update Counterterrorism training practices for security forces of all types whether they form the army cadres or police personnel. It must also be kept in view that the resurgence of terrorist activities is the obvious result of injudicious policies successive government has followed in Pakistan. It therefore is mandatory on the state to rectify the mistakes it committed in the past and devise judicious policies so that terrorist activity is provided no reason to take place. The time has come to take all national stakeholders into confidence and form policies that are consensual in nature and intent having widest public approval and success. TW