A few days after a suicide attack targeting an FC commander in Peshawar killed 12 people, militants have struck in the city again, this time, with an attack on a grid station that claimed seven lives. The attack also caused a power outage in the city and the tribal areas. This attack could signal a terrifying new front in the militant war against the state. By targeting infrastructure, the Taliban would be able to bring life to a complete halt. Power plants, bridges, sewage tunnels and other important parts of daily life that we take for granted could end up being the next target of militants.
It is easy to say that the government should simply post security at all such potential targets but in practice, that can turn out to be quite impossible. The grid station which was attacked by militants did have police guards but they were outnumbered by the attackers and held hostage. The unfortunate fact is that there are hundreds of thousands of potential sites that need to be guarded, while the militants can take their pick and still cause significant damage. This is why the only lasting solution is to defeat the militants so comprehensively that they can never pose a significant threat again. The resurgence in violence in Peshawar, coupled with the territorial gains made in Tirah Valley, should convince politicians of all stripes that negotiations, which have been endorsed by many political parties, simply will not work.
Right now, the entire country has essentially been held hostage by the militants. We are paying the price in blood for the many years that the state vacillated between action and inaction. There has never been a comprehensive strategy that aims at reclaiming the entire tribal areas from the militants. Instead, we have been fighting a piecemeal war, allowing the enemy to relocate and rejuvenate. The increased violence in Peshawar is testament to that failed strategy. The militants are not only as bloodthirsty as before but, as the grid station attack shows, have also become tactically smarter.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2013.