After a relative lull, it now appears that the Taliban has once again become active in Punjab and is now targeting the state and military apparatus. The first attack was on an army camp in Gujrat a few days ago, which has now been followed up by the shooting of nine police and prison staff during the early hours of dawn as they slept in a hostel, housing officers being trained for the troubled northwest region. Taken together, these two attacks show that the recent drop in violence may simply have given the Taliban time to regroup. Having done so, its militants are now attacking the police and the army, just as they did so effectively a couple of years ago. The days and weeks ahead will tell us a lot about just how potent a threat the Taliban remains and whether the militant group retains the ability to attack at will in Punjab.
A Taliban spokesman has claimed responsibility and said that the attack on the hostel was carried out because the officers being trained “are used in operations against us” and “we want to prove that no place is beyond our reach”. The militants will only intensify their efforts if they know that wanton violence will be successful in achieving their outcomes. A far better tactic would be to cooperate with the US and extend that cooperation in areas like drone attacks and taking on the Haqqani network, so that the combined might of the two countries can rout out the militants once and for all.
The task, though, is a considerably difficult one. And before it can be achieved, we may have to brace ourselves for further violence. It is thus the government’s responsibility to ensure such attacks are foiled. There can be absolutely no excuse for failing to provide protection at official buildings, especially at those where military and law-enforcement officials can be found. From the attack on the GHQ in Rawalpindi to the siege at the PNS Mehran in Karachi and the police training school in Lahore, the Taliban has established a clear pattern of its targets. The government’s job is to make these targets impenetrable.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2012.
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