PUNJAB’S Counter Terrorism Department claims to have busted a network of militants affiliated with the banned TTP and Hizbul Ahrar which was poised to carry out attacks in the country. The CTD had been on the trail of the suspects for many months, and, according to one official, this was the longest intelligence-based operation “in the history of the CTD Punjab which culminated in success”. Hizbul Ahrar is a relatively new name among militant outfits working in Pakistan, and an offshoot of the Jamaatul Ahrar. The group is said to be behind a fatal attack in Attock on personnel of the National Defence Complex last May. It then conducted a suicide strike in Nowshera a few days later. The CTD’s Rawalpindi teams arrested five militants, including a young would-be suicide bomber, claiming that further violence by this network had been prevented. The attackers — the suicide bomber included — had been transported from Afghanistan. While Pakistan has consistently asked Kabul to take action against militants who take refuge on Afghan soil and carry out cross-border attacks, identifying and arresting local facilitators is also crucial to the fight against militancy here.
Indeed, there has been a constant problem when it comes to investigating terrorist outfits. The focus has remained on the foreign hand; this has led to slow progress on tackling the terror threat that is present inside Pakistan. Data clearly indicates that foreign territory and human resources outside this country have been used in the violent effort to destabilise Pakistan. These facts have been cited often enough, and Pakistan has good reason to be concerned about further attacks on its territory that are planned abroad. But in all this, the provincial CTDs must remember that their existence owes in large part to the need to deal with terror at the local level. We now hear that the outfit which has just been busted as a result of the Punjab CTD’s prolonged and sustained pursuit will find it extremely difficult to regroup and recreate the network; the effort must be replicated in other parts of the country. Just as Pakistani security stands guard against any militants that are waiting to sneak in from the outside, equal vigilance is required to root out the local elements that aid terror outfits. They are as big a danger as anyone — and located much closer.
Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2018