ACTS of terrorism in the country’s urban centres are certainly down, especially as compared to the situation a few years ago. However, this does not mean that the threat of militancy has been vanquished and the security apparatus can rest easy.
As reported in this paper on Tuesday, according to the Sindh police’s Counter-Terrorism Department, a “splinter cell” associated with Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent is “regrouping” in Karachi. The militants, it was said, had apparently returned from Afghanistan and were planning to activate sleeper cells in the metropolis. As Tuesday’s deadly bombing in Quetta demonstrates, the militants are on the lookout for soft targets and can strike whenever they have an opportunity to do so.
It should be remembered that before the militant threat was dealt several blows through a combination of military operations (eg Zarb-i-Azb) and police action in the cities, acts of terrorism had become a frequent, unfortunate part of life in Pakistan. Mosques, markets, schools and political rallies were all attacked by extremist killers, resulting in a high number of casualties and sending a wave of fear across the nation.
Thankfully, the situation has changed for the positive, though in the recent past, several attempts have been made to sabotage the relative stability in the country, such as the Kuchlak mosque bombing in August. The key, as experience shows, is to conduct intelligence-based operations and bust terrorist groups before they can carry out acts of violence.
In this regard, the Sindh CTD has done well to raise a red flag about the presence of AQIS in Karachi; now the security agencies must step into high gear and bust the cell before it is able to carry out acts of mayhem.
Militants may be keeping quiet, but this does not mean that they have abandoned their violent ways. For example, sectarian groups have also reared their ugly head, as a number of targeted killings in Karachi have recently indicated. But with a combination of good intelligence and law enforcement, these violent actors can be countered and put out of business.
The National Action Plan remains a workable solution to uproot terrorism from Pakistan, and needs to be implemented with full force.
This country has suffered much due to years of the state ignoring the terrorist threat. Now when the situation is relatively better, the state must prevent new threats from emerging, and neutralise the remnants of old militant outfits.
Published in Dawn, October 16th, 2019