That the scenic mountains of Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B), thus far known for their snow-capped peaks and as a haven for mountaineers, will now become known for the gruesome tragedy that panned out there on June 23, is yet another reminder of the vortex of perpetual violence that has engulfed our country. According to reports, gunmen dressed as paramilitary troops killed nine foreign tourists, including Ukrainian and Chinese climbers, as well as a Pakistani, who were staying at the base camp area of Nanga Parbat, the world’s ninth-highest mountain at a height of over 4,000 metres in the Diamer district of G-B. The responsibility for the attack was initially claimed by the militant group Jundallah, which has in the past also claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on the Shia community, including one in February 2012 when gunmen shot dead 18 bus passengers. Later, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) also accepted responsibility, saying that the attack was a retaliation to the killing of their leader Waliur Rehman, who was killed in a US drone strike recently.
Condemnations have come thick and fast, with Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif being in the forefront of these. However, the fact remains that whoever the actual perpetrator of the attack may be — the TTP or Jundallah — our security apparatus has completely failed to apprehend these groups despite the people of our country being repeatedly targeted by them. It is quite clear that those responsible for gathering intelligence to detect the possible attacks these groups may be planning to carry out, and then taking every measure possible to prevent them, have failed in their duties.
It remains to be seen how the new government will deal with the fallout of this incident. The PML-N government has so far laid emphasis on dealing with the security situation through holding talking with the TTP. However, the violence and terrorism that continues to afflict Pakistan clearly shows that talking to those who only believe in violence is not going to solve the huge crisis at hand. The government needs to come down hard on the various militant groups that have killed thousands of our people, and have no qualms about attacking foreign tourists either. It is time that the whole country unites on the issue of terrorism before Pakistan becomes further isolated in the international community.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 24th, 2013.