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EDITORIAL: There is a sudden spike in terrorist attacks on soft targets. A Christian priest was shot dead and another wounded as they were on their way back after attending Sunday service at a church in Peshawar when two men on motorcycle opened fire on their van from close range and fled. According to a church leader, the victims had no enmity with anyone, and that it was a targeted attack. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the atrocity.

However, back in 2013 twin suicide bombings on a Sunday congregation in the city had left some 78 people dead and many others injured. TTP terrorists had taken credit for the carnage. Soon after the present incident, members of the local Christian community gave full vent to their sense of shock and fear by staging a protest demonstration.

It seems to be part of a wider strategy by terrorists to spread fear and panic in society and create political instability. A few days ago, i.e., on January 20, three people, including a child, were killed and at least 28 others injured when a bomb tied to a motorcycle went off in Lahore’s crowded Anarkali bazaar.

An obscure Baloch group calling itself Balochistan Nationalist Army had claimed it was behind the atrocity. But some suspects nabbed by the police linked them to the TTP. For a while TTP terrorists and Baloch insurgents have focused on targeting security forces as well as police in that restive province as well as in the tribal areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

In fact, a few days ago 10 soldiers were martyred when terrorists attacked a security checkpost in Kech district of Balochistan. But in a rare incident on January 17, two gunmen opened fire on a police checkpost in Islamabad. In the ensuing shootout, the two assailants were killed. One policeman also lost his life while two others were injured.

The TTP took responsibility for it. Since the TTP leadership and most of its militant cadres are ensconced in Afghanistan, the interim Taliban government in Kabul is either unwilling to act against its ideological brothers or has little control over them despite the latter declaring allegiance to their leadership.

During his recent two-day visit to Kabul, National Security Adviser Dr Moeed Yusuf was to discuss, among other things, the security issues which surely included the pledge his hosts had given to the international community not to allow any violent extremist group to use Afghan soil to launch attacks on other countries.

The two sides renewed their commitment to cement bilateral diplomatic, social and economic ties and also to ensure peace and stability in the two countries. It is not known yet if he had any success regarding the TTP problem.

Strict vigilance, however, is maintained at the border, where a security fence is near completion, which means the TTP has activated its sleeper cells for attacks on security forces as well as civilian targets to show it retains the ability to cause harm.

India is known to have used that terror outfit in the past in aid of its publicly declared policy of “defensive offence” with the express design to destabilise Pakistan. It may well still be orchestrating TTP’s acts of terrorism. It should not be so difficult for our civilian and military intelligence agencies to identify members of TTP terror sleeper cells and take action against them. For that to happen they need to improve intelligence sharing.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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