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EDITORIAL: If the political and economic crises weren’t bad enough, the state must now contend with a fast-deteriorating security situation as well.

There can no longer be any doubt that another head-on collision with TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) and its splinter groups is already under way; to the point that attacks have become a regular feature once again at least in Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), occurring almost daily in the latter.

There’s also no longer any doubt that the return of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan is the biggest contributing factor in TTP’s decision to bring the fight back to Pakistan.

Both the defence minister and army chief have stated as such recently, yet Kabul has only repeated the old line that no foreign attacks will be planned on or executed from Afghan soil. But since TTP attacks are martyring law enforcement personnel and civilians alike almost on a daily basis in Pakistan, and Islamabad has made it clear that it needs to see serious action from Kabul this time, something is sure to change.

Controlling this security breakdown right now is important not just to restore peace, but also to keep the country’s politics and economics from becoming yet more toxic. It’s hard enough to attract any foreign aid, much less foreign investment, as it is.

If bombs and bullets keep going off, like those ugly days when the military finally had to put TTP down after successive operations, there’s no chance of any outside investment and a good chance that institutional lenders will also stay away till calm is restored. So the stakes couldn’t possibly be higher.

Security has become an even more sensitive and important matter in the holy month of Muharram. Nobody needs to be reminded of those long years when imambaras or imambargahs, processions and majalis were attacked indiscriminately; with the state always trying to play catch-up.

This ugly trend has largely been in check for the last decade or so, after the military pushed the insurgents across the Durand Line into their Afghan sanctuary, but the state must still be alert to the prospect of the fog surrounding TTP’s attempted second insurgency emboldening sectarian militias into sharpening their knives as well.

All things considered, it seems the state has finally put the pieces of its strategy in place and decided to neutralise TTP properly this time. And, far from the previous administration’s plans of “repatriating” its fighters in KP, the government and military have made their position very clear to the Afghan government, since the Afghan shelter stands in the way. Perhaps the only thing still lacking is unity in the political elite. So far, it seems that even an attack on the integrity of the state itself cannot untangle them from their own selfish fight for the spoils.

The Afghan policy is no different. Main government and opposition parties continue to attack each other’s positions regarding TTP’s resurgence purely for political gain. Their arguments, often self-contradictory, are aimed only at attacking the other and rarely, if ever, are they rooted in facts.

It would help everybody, especially security forces laying their lives every day, if they put their difference aside for once and give undivided attention to the worsening security situation that is ticking like a time bomb about to go off with devastating effect.

There’s a good chance that Kabul might not respond favourably to Pakistan’s clear call, which seriously increases the need for political consensus inside Pakistan. We would cut a very sorry figure if our democratic representatives cannot display the foresight needed to counter one of the gravest threats to the country just because they’re always too busy fighting each other.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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