The war on terror that we have been fighting for several years now, is becoming dicier by the day. Suicide attacks and bomb blasts continue to kill people. The ‘enemy’ seems to have regrouped.
The suicide attack on the shrine of Abdullah Shah Ghazi shows that the terrorists can strike with impunity. Just before this, in early September, there were two attacks — one after the other — in Lahore and Quetta, respectively. The attack in Lahore on September 1 was on a Shia procession, at three different sites close to each other. The attack in Quetta came two days later on a Shia procession commemorating Al Quds day. On the same day, an Ahmadi place of worship was attacked in Mardan by a suicide bomber. As expected, the incidents were routinely “condemned” by the prime minister and his colleagues, enquiries and investigations being ordered. Cash compensation was announced for victim families and people resumed their lives, learning to live with acts of terror, fearing that a sectarian flare up in such a weak state as Pakistan could easily spin out of control.
The attitude of the government towards these and other such incidents is one of helplessness. After the occurrence, the police come up with the head of the bomber as proof that it was suicide bombing. Normally, there is no further information and in due course of time the incident becomes just another statistic, not a crime that must be investigated.
But the police, undermanned, under-trained and under-motivated, never know what to do in these situations. They are not sure if they are there to protect, intimidate or steal. A massive investment needs to be made in police recruitment and training on modern, scientific lines.
The critical element to deal with terrorism is intelligence. In the absence of proper intelligence, it is foolish to expect state security forces and law enforcement agencies to be effective. They must penetrate these organisations and establish reliable networks of informants, the objective being to be a step ahead of the terrorist. Obviously, all this is not happening.
Next, the state must set its priorities. Thanks to Musharraf’s alliance with the US, we embraced the war on terror and brought it right into the cities of Pakistan. Between them they gave us the Lashkar-e-Taiba, Harkat-ul-Mujahideen and the Taliban and used them to follow their agenda in Afghanistan and Kashmir. The same groups have now held the country hostage. Between 2007 and 2009, 5,500 innocent people were killed in suicide and other attacks. It is time we come out of denial.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 23rd, 2010.