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EDITORIAL: The news came as a huge shock. A judge of the Swat anti-terrorism court Aftab Afridi, his wife, daughter and a three-year-old grandson were killed and their driver seriously wounded on Sunday when unidentified assailants riding in an automobile overtook their car near the Swabi Interchange on the Peshawar-Islamabad Motorway and opened fire from close range. Two security guards accompanying them also sustained injuries. Notably, judge Afridi was posted in Swat only two months ago. As the attack aroused widespread anger and indignation, the local bar association called a day-long strike. In a Twitter post, Prime Minister Imran Khan also strongly condemned the “murder of ATC judge Aftab Afridi his wife & 2 children at Anbar Interchange”, promising that “the perpetrators of this gruesome act will be apprehended & dealt with full severity of the law.”

There was no immediate indication as to who might have been responsible for the targeted killing of the judge along with women and a small child. Some reports suggested the appalling murders could be related to a personal enmity. However, what cannot be overlooked easily is the fact that Swat had been a hotbed of terrorism under the so-called Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) which was ousted in a 2009 military operation. That was where Malala Yousafzai was shot for advocating girls’ right to education, and countless innocent people were executed by brutal TTP militants. It was the home base of the violent extremist leader, Mullah Fazlullah, who later became the emir of TTP, and following the military operation escaped to Afghanistan from where his men regularly launched cross-border attacks into the border regions of Pakistan. Although he and most other TTP commanders have been killed in various drone strikes, some militants of that terror outfit and its associated groups have remained active in the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Considering that at one point they were in complete control of Swat, these terrorists may still have supporters and sympathizers in the area. Their involvement in the latest atrocity cannot be ruled out.

The police are expected to investigate the incident from all angles, and come up with a report soon. If it is an outcome of some personal enmity it should not be difficult to identify the perpetrators and arrest them. In case it is the doing of some heartless TTP terrorists that should also be brought to light and necessary steps taken to bring them to justice. The Prime Minister’s vow to apprehend the killers and deal with full severity of the law inspires confidence that whosoever is the guilty party will be handed exemplary punishment.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021