Terror again

July 25, 2019

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SEPARATE terror attacks in Dera Ismail Khan and Quetta on Sunday and Tuesday serve as a grisly reminder that the scourge of terrorism and militant violence still plague the country. In D.I. Khan, seven people, including four policemen, died in two attacks — on a police check post and a government-run hospital that was targeted by a suicide bomber. Some reports indicated that the bomber might have been a woman who waited outside the trauma centre of the hospital for the victims of the gun attack on the check-post to be brought to the ward before detonating the explosives. The banned TTP Khorasani group claimed responsibility for the two attacks. In Quetta, terrorists planted an explosive device on a bicycle and detonated it outside a medical store, killing four people. The Quetta attack comes nearly a month after security forces foiled a terror attack in the Loralai area, where three suicide bombers were killed.

The attacks underscore the reality that more needs to be done before we can claim that Pakistan has seen the end of terrorism. Undoubtedly, consecutive security operations in the country have vastly limited the capacity of terror groups to strike. But despite the gains made by these military advances, it is evident that there is a need for continued vigilance, along with sustained focus on eliminating/ addressing the causes of militancy. For instance, beyond proscribing militant organisations, there is an urgent need to implement the ban on the activities of these groups and their members in letter and spirit. In the past, the state had a peculiar predilection for promoting the concept of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ militants — a dangerous narrative that discounted the material and logistical links between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ jihadis. Although it appears that there is a reckoning of sorts under the incumbent government that says it wants to change the policy on suspected militant groups, it is essential for this introspection to go beyond bans and blacklisting, as ineffective implementation of the new thinking can prove to be counterproductive in the long run. It is also important for the government to identify and block the source of funding of terror groups, many of whom are reportedly financed through drug trafficking, smuggling, extortion, kidnapping and street crimes. Law-enforcement agencies must continue to stay vigilant and be proactive in dismantling terror groups with the support of the government, whose focus should be on addressing the question of why young people become victims of radicalisation.

Published in Dawn, July 25th, 2019