The militant menace is still with us. Indeed, it seems to be growing, gathering fury, with the militants able to strike as and when they please. This is, of course, not a happy situation to be in. On July 24, the terrorists demonstrated their might, striking just as they have done before. Their level of audacity seems to be growing. The attack on the ISI office in Sukkur, at iftar time, was obviously meticulously planned and daringly executed. The militants used bombs, explosives and guns to blast their way into the ISI office located in the heavily guarded Sukkur Barrage Colony, killing eight people and injuring others as a result of their carefully coordinated assault. The principal target appeared to be Major Zeeshan, of the ISI, who apparently was investigating terrorism and had in his possession key documents leading up to them.
The purpose of the attack then, like the many before it, seems to be to demonstrate that the militants are able to choose whom they hit and go after those attempting to make headway in the battle against them. There have been similar attacks on the offices of key security agencies, with ISI offices in Lahore struck in 2009. A situation in which top agencies cannot protect themselves demonstrates just how powerful the militants are.
The attack itself, of course, needs to be investigated. As yet, there have been no claims of responsibility. But bigger questions also arise. One of them is whether we should be talking to militants. The prime minister appears to have been rethinking the PML-N strategy on this and there are indications that possibly, on military advice, he may not be willing for now to open negotiations with the Taliban. This is, indeed, good news, and shows both a willingness on the part of the government to carefully consider its priorities and a readiness to listen to others. The militant threat is obviously very real. Around 200 people have been killed since Mian Nawaz Sharif took office. This is no small number. These deaths and the latest attacks show just how carefully he needs to proceed to overcome our biggest national problem.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 26th, 2013.
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