We are told, once again, that we are faced with a militant threat of huge dimensions. Islamabad has been placed on high alert and 30 teams comprising police commandos, air force and navy personnel have been posted in the Margalla hills. It is somewhat unclear quite what purpose they are intended to serve. Check posts stand across the capital, search operations have been conducted in areas across the city and according to the police, will continue over the next few days, the Benazir Bhutto Airport has been on high alert for days and in other parts of the country too, higher vigilance has been introduced at prisons amidst reports that there may be further attempts to stage attacks on them and free militants as happened at Dera Ismail Khan at the end of June, when around 250 prisoners got away after what appeared to be a Taliban-led raid.
The latest alert is linked to this massive escape. Indeed, reports say intelligence agencies around the world fear the jailbreak may be linked to similar action at prisons in Iraq and Libya. The US has stated that al Qaeda is behind a global plot of some kind, and US missions in Muslims countries are being shut down as the country goes into top security mode. The situation highlights the extent to which the militant threat remains a real factor around the globe more than a decade after 9/11 took place.
We must hope, of course, that there is no terrorist action of any kind in our country. We have faced far too much of it already. But, realistically speaking, we must also ask if the measures taken will really help to ward it off. The deployment of security personnel in the hills and in other places, while suitably dramatic, is really just a cosmetic measure. If terrorism is to be truly combated, we need to get to the root of the problem, deal with extremism at the grassroots level and also tackle the outfits that operate far too freely in many parts of our country so that we can create a safer environment where the militant threat does not figure as a constant factor.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2013.
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