ANOTHER week, another sectarian attack, yet another attack in Peshawar. While no one expected the state to shut down the militancy complex and suppress terrorism in a matter of weeks, what yesterday’s attack in Peshawar seems to have underlined is that the state strategy in the fight against militancy is inadequate and not wide-ranging enough.
There are at least two points to be made here.
First, the sectarian equation. From Shikarpur to Peshawar, militants have struck against Shias and their places of worship seemingly at will, indicating that yet another front in the militancy wars is once again being aggressively pursued.
While not all militant groups are avowedly and determinedly sectarian, it is nevertheless true that practically all operating here have a sectarian strain.
The failure of the state was in not giving priority to stemming the growth of avowedly sectarian militant groups — the longer those particular groups have been allowed to operate with near impunity, the more it seems to have encouraged other militant outfits to focus on their sectarian agendas.
It is still not too late. The country, despite grievous blows to the Shia community in recent years, is not on the verge of a full-blown sectarian civil war. But if fighting sectarianism is not made a priority now, the implosion in parts of the Middle East is a haunting reminder of how quickly and irreversibly matters can get out of control.
The other aspect is Peshawar. Sitting pressed up against the tribal areas and a regional hub for so many trouble spots, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is a front-line city in the fight against militancy.
As such, it will always be a city militants look to stage attacks in. But it cannot be forgotten that Peshawar is also the administrative and military hub from which the state projects its power in the immediate region. The troops fighting in Fata are commanded from Peshawar.
The writ over KP and Fata is administratively handled from Peshawar. As such, it is a city that has vast resources and from where both the civil and military arms of the state have over the years learned how to work in cooperation with each other to help secure it.
In essence, then, why are such large groups of militants, as in the case of the Army Public School attack and now the Shia mosque, still able to so easily penetrate high-security sites in Peshawar?
Surely, that is not too much to ask for — that droves of militants not arrive at their targets undetected from where they proceed to deliver yet another blow to the national psyche?
Something is wrong here and neither the military nor the civilian, provincial and federal, leadership is willing to admit it.
The enemy is proving to be more resilient and smarter than the state that is purporting to fight it.
Published in Dawn February 14th , 2015