ISLAMABAD: The assassination attempt on Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on Sunday not only chipped away the remnants of people’s faith in the country’s ability to fight terrorism, but also cast a dark shadow over the prospects of the upcoming elections.
Experts on security matters said the attempt on Iqbal’s life is a bad omen for the general elections.
Iqbal was shot and injured during a rally in Narowal’s Kanjrur tehsil on Sunday.
Security experts blamed the government for not implementing the National Action Plan (NAP) in letter and spirit.
According to them, combatting terrorism did not seem high on the government’s priority list. Describing NAP as “dead and buried”, they said that the government would need to revise its strategy in this regard in the wake of the terror attack.
Activating the National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA) still appears to be a pipedream and NAP’s most important organ – the Joint Intelligence Directorate – has yet to be set up. The directorate was supposed to serve as an intelligence-sharing platform for all counter-terrorism agencies, including Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
One of the security experts, Brig (retd) Said Nazeer Mohmand described the interior minister’s office to be the hub of all security agencies, excluding ISI and Military Intelligence (MI), and he is supposed to have foolproof security at all times.
According to him, the interior minister always had three-tiered security during all his movements.
“First of all, security agencies give clearance before he goes anywhere and he is always closely guarded. [The minister] also has an outer cordon of security.”
Moreover, he said, the minister’s movements were kept secret and ideally no one other than officials deputed on his security should have known about his movement.
He said that security agencies such as the intelligence network of Rangers, FC and even the Intelligence Bureau (IB) were accountable to him and a breach of his own security was a very serious issue.
According to Brig Mohmand, although the IB is under the direct command of the prime minister, some of its work is also managed by the interior minister.
Local police also provided security cover to the interior minister during all of his visits, he said, adding that top-tier police officials should be held accountable for any security lapse.
Terming the attempt on the interior minister’s life a bad omen for general elections, he reminded that the tenure of the incumbent National Assembly would expire by the end of this month.
As a result of this attack, the movement of political figures might be restricted.
Pressure on the PML-N, which is already reeling after the controversy over the Khatm-e-Nabuwat clause of the Election Bill, would intensify, he said.
Another defence analyst, Brig (retd) Farooq Hameed, termed the assassination attempt a total security lapse.
He wondered how was it possible for the attacker to get inside the 15-yard perimeter despite strict security.
“This is a dangerous trend … God forbid if the assailant had succeeded it would have been a black swan event with very serious implications,” he asserted.
He agreed with the assertion that the attempt on Ahsan Iqbal’s life would have serious repercussions on the prospects of general elections.
The situation, he said, would become clearer once the attackers’ motives were known.
The interior minister, as the custodian of the NAP, was supposed to implement it in letter and spirit, including taking action against terrorist outfits, he said, adding that the PML-N government avoided implementing NAP in its true spirit despite the fact that it had launched the plan.
Some elements, he added, were out to create anarchy in Pakistan by targeting high-profile targets.
He said that leaders of all political parties needed to be extremely careful.