Where militants dare

The only way to thwart militant activity is to gain prior knowledge of their plans.

Editorial July 30, 2013
Policemen collect evidence outside the site following the brazen attack in DI Khan. PHOTO: REUTERS

It seems the militants are becoming more and more daring, making inroads of a kind never seen before. The attack on the Dera Ismail Khan Jail, housing some 5,000 prisoners, late July 29, is virtually unprecedented. The purpose was clearly to release the 300 or so militants housed at the jail and the 150 or more Taliban men involved in the action succeeded in taking away around 243 prisoners. Six were recaptured by the police. The raid on the jail, responsibility for which has already been claimed by the Taliban, involved 60 suicide bombers and began with rockets fired at the jail as the militants, dressed in police uniforms, burst in. Attempts are now on to recapture the escaped militants, with the good people of DI Khan warned to stay indoors in case further gun battles break out. But there is a more pressing question here: even more pressing, perhaps, than the question of recapturing the men who have fled, is the issue of how this could have happened. We clearly see a complete security and intelligence failure, with the Taliban able to pull off what is certainly one of the most audacious prison breaks we have seen. How did this happen? Why did agencies apparently fail to pick up even a whiff of what was clearly an elaborate plan, worked out over many days and with a large group of people obviously involved.

In such circumstances, the intelligence failure is unacceptable. The only way to thwart militant activity is to gain prior knowledge of their plans. By now, after so many years of tackling militancy, our elaborate intelligence networks — funded by public money — should have made inroads into militant set-ups, allowing them to gain important information. Only through such means can we ward off the kind of action seen in DI Khan. An assessment needs to be made of why such information is apparently not coming in, so that gaps can be plugged and the entire security structure re-examined as required so that it can be set up in a manner designed to prevent the kind of security nightmare that unfolded on July 29.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2013.

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