EDITORIAL: There has been a very clear uptick in terrorist incidents in Balochistan ever since the Taliban’s return to Kabul sent shockwaves through the entire region. Yet while the BLA (Balochistan Liberation Army) and BLF (Balochistan Liberation Front) took responsibility for the first couple of attacks, the one in Mastung the other day that killed four FC personnel and wounded 20 other people was claimed, curiously enough, by TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan). The interior minister Shaikh Rashid confirmed in a presser that in incidents in Quetta and Gwadar suicide bombers had come from Afghanistan although the Taliban had assured Pakistan that Afghan soil will not be used against Pakistan. Surely, nobody in Pakistan can claim to have been caught off guard by this because it was practically written on the wall. That is why Islamabad specifically requested that the Taliban do something about TTP as soon as they got control of the government. And while they more or less wanted Pakistan to take care of problems like TTP itself, this attack does fly in the face of their assertion that their soil would not be used for an attack inside any other country.
The Afghan war may have concluded but the situation there is very far from normal, or even settled, just yet. Sections of the international media have also refuted the claim, championed by Pakistan, that there could never be a military solution to this conflict because it did, as a matter of fact, end when the Taliban achieved military superiority on the ground and simply waltzed into Kabul. Now the biggest challenge, not just for the Taliban but also for neighbouring countries, is to keep a lid on any further violence; especially another civil war like the 1990s. Pakistan is, quite naturally, the leading voice calling for calm because in case of more fighting it will be burdened the most by an influx of refugees as well as terrorists.
Yet this is hardly a situation that Pakistani authorities would not have factored in by now. TTP was waiting for just such a chance to regroup and mobilise and our intelligence agencies have been ready for them for some time now. But it will be crucial to nip the evil in the bud this time because once TTP gets going it will be only a matter of time before it is joined by other like-minded outfits like the so-called Islamic State (IS), whose patrons and financers thrive on instability in states like Pakistan. It is, therefore, very important to learn the right lessons from the Mastung hit. It was yet another case of a suicide attacker ramming an explosive-laden motorcycle into a security convoy. And since all the parts of a suicide bomb have to be smuggled in parts to the destination of choice, authorities will have to go back to the National Action Plan (NAP) because it mandates timely intelligence sharing between dozens of security agencies. When intel chatter picked up by one agency is shared with others doing similar work in different domains, the chances of putting two and two together are infinitely improved. In fact, this was one of the ways in which the military crushed TTP’s suicide bombing tactics last time.
This time, hopefully, this exercise will be employed with much more speed as well as force. Pakistan has suffered more than any other country in the so-called war against terrorism without even being a direct part of it; a fact that our leaders right from General Musharraf to Imran Khan have done well to remind the world about every now and then. Yet regardless of who might be responsible for the violence that comes our way, it is up to our security agencies to keep us all safe at the end of the day. It was Islamabad, after all, that warned the West that its war model could only result in the Taliban coming back to power. And Islamabad has known all along that the Taliban’s return would send TTP, and its Indian backers, into a frenzy, which would translate into more attacks on our home soil. And it is the responsibility of the government in Islamabad to deal with the threat that is now, once again, very clearly playing out on our streets.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2021