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EDITORIAL: There is noticeable uptick in terrorist attacks in tribal areas and Baluchistan over the last few months, particularly since the Taliban 2.0. took over in Afghanistan. Unlike the suicidal bombings in the past the prime targets now are military posts and casualties suffered by military personnel are quite substantial.

On January 25, 10 military personnel were martyred in clashes with terrorists at Kech in Baluchistan; a week before seven military personnel lost their lives in a clash lasting 60 hours in Noshki, Panjgur. The latest clash took place in Birmal area of South Waziristan in which an army major and a soldier were martyred.

In all these incidents terrorists suffer comparatively much more fatalities, but as of now there is no hard evidence suggesting that these losses have breached their determination to destabilize Pakistan and impose their doctrine-oriented missions, posing a challenge to government’s thinking to promote geo-economics instead of making geostrategic interests as its foremost option. Will that happen? We are not certain given that prevailing atmospherics, as portrayed by resurgence of terrorism, are not conducive to such a dramatic alteration.

Of the scores of terrorist outfits, some asleep and other awake, three most active are Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) and Islamic State (IS) – and all three are now closing ranks even when their messages hugely differ.

While some of their components are based in Pakistan their main strengths are ensconced in the adjoining border areas of Afghanistan. According to UN Analytical and Sanctions Monitoring Team, between 3,000 and 5,000 fighters of TTP are still active in Afghanistan despite assurances given by the Taliban regime. They also receive vicarious advice and help from al-Qaeda and Jammat Ansurulah.

The TTP wants to recover its ‘territory’ in tribal region that it has lost to Pakistan forces. It has, therefore, reactivated its terrorist cells. The BLA, egged on as it is by India, has been tasked to sabotage the Chinese investments, particularly in Gwadar. No wonder then that attacks in Baluchistan coincided with former prime minister Imran Khan’s visit to Beijing as China hosted the Winter Olympics.

And the Islamic State is motivated to cause harm to the Shia community – as it did by suicide-bombing a Shia mosque in Peshawar recently. In order to stem resurgence of terrorism Pakistan has two options: one, to engage Taliban government in Kabul and two, to toughen implementation of National Action Plan.

Given Islamabad’s consistent support, both open and disguised, to Afghan Taliban over many years it is its earnest hope that now as the Taliban are in power they would deny Afghan soil to anti-Pakistan terrorist groups. In so many words this was conveyed by the then National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf as he visited Kabul and conveyed Pakistan’s concerns.

He was given positive assurance, but nothing of that kind happened on the ground. Rightly then Pakistan is left with no option but to take on terrorist on its own. As for fighting terrorists the military is doing its best. That it is a war and it must be won whatever may be the cost is a fact. Scores of army officers and jawans have sacrificed their lives to secure Pakistan and its people. Not only is this a battlefield war, it is also war of hearts and minds and should be fought on all fronts.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022

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