THE “scourge of terrorism is taking its last breath”, and Wednesday’s atrocity in Karachi exposed the “desperation of the terrorists”, President Mamnoon Hussain told a gathering in Islamabad on Thursday.
Unfortunately, Mr President, the reality appears far grimmer. If anything, the massacre of close to 50 Ismaili Shia Muslims in the metropolis is reflective of the calculated, methodical brutality of the militants. The killers knew exactly what they were doing, had done their homework and carried out the outrage with impunity.
As opposed to this, it is the state that appears to be at sea. Considering the revulsion the attack has created within Pakistan and abroad, the government is putting on a brave face and trying to talk the talk. But the key question is: will this latest tragedy spur long-lasting counterterrorism action, specifically in Karachi?
Both the military and civilian arms of the state have made numerous references to the involvement of foreign intelligence agencies in destabilising Karachi. Solid evidence needs to be produced on this count and thereafter, the matter needs to be taken up through diplomatic channels.
The state has also pledged to intensify the Karachi operation; at a high-powered meeting on Thursday attended by the army chief and DG ISI, along with the Sindh governor and chief minister, it was decided that action in the metropolis would be taken against violent elements of all stripes.
The operation, initiated in September 2013, till now has produced less than stellar results. While Karachi did indeed experience a brief period of relative calm, targeted killings have resumed, while the bus attack is a stark reminder that the militants’ infrastructure in the city is very much undisturbed.
It is hoped the state will examine the flaws in its strategy thus far and attempt to rectify them. For example, as per the optics — especially of the last few months — it appears as if action has largely been directed at one political party.
Will the dragnet be expanded to include sectarian and jihadi groups that, on paper, are banned or on the watch list, but openly and defiantly display their street power?
Will the state be able to resist the pressure tactics of the extreme right when suspects are probed? These major questions need to be answered by the captains of the operation in Sindh in a transparent manner if a sustained campaign to rid Karachi of militancy of all shades is to have any chance of success.
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2015