The ANP has been under attack before; scores of activists and leaders have been killed in bomb attacks and other kind of violence perpetuated by those who oppose the party’s anti-extremist views and other policies. The blast which took place in Nowshera on February 27 — perilously close to the venue where an ANP rally addressed by Chief Minister Amir Haider Hoti had just ended — was clearly intended to send out just this message once more. At least seven people were killed and many more injured, as explosives weighing around three to four kilograms attached to a motorbike detonated, just as the chief minister had left in a helicopter. The warning sent out was a clear one.
What is ominous is that the extremists who still operate in our midst continue to be able to send out such messages. Security at the site of the rally was — for obvious reasons — high. But no amount of security precaution seems to be sufficient to stop suicide bombers. Hence, we need to see what we can do to improve security. Something seems to be amiss. Sniffer dogs, devices able to detect explosives and expert personnel are all needed. Perhaps, what we require is expertise hired from abroad to work out what should be done. It is also essential that we review the working of our intelligence apparatus, and find ways to improve its efficiency. Given that the responsibility for this attack — which has taken an unforgivable toll on life and inflicted suffering — has been taken by the Taliban, the effort of negotiating with them seems to be futile. What adds to the disastrous nature of such attacks is that they also serve to detach political leaders from the people. Politics and democracy depend on a regular flow of contacts between leaders and the electorate; on the face-to-face interaction between them and the delivery of messages that comes through this process. There has already been a drastic reduction in public meetings. If we allow this to continue, the bombers will have won by pushing back parties into the relative safety of their offices and this cannot be allowed.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 29th, 2012.