Resurgent militancy

Jun 01 2020

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MILITANCY is again beginning to cast a shadow over parts of the country, kindling fears of a return to the bad old days. On Eid, three people were shot dead by masked assailants in an act of targeted killing in Mir Ali, North Waziristan. Among the victims was an Islamabad-based senior bureaucrat visiting his native village for the festival. Earlier this month, five people were gunned down in two separate incidents in the same town. In Wana, South Waziristan, PTM leader Arif Wazir was shot dead by unidentified assailants on May 2. Attacks on security personnel are also becoming increasingly frequent. In April alone, 10 of them were martyred in North Waziristan. In fact, 90pc of casualties in acts of violence during April were recorded in this particular tribal district. Then, last Tuesday, two policemen were murdered by unidentified gunmen in Islamabad.

Much blood and treasure has been expended in fighting militancy, particularly where the tribal districts are concerned. Its residents endured years of savagery at the hands of violent extremists, plus the loss of livelihoods and displacement from their homes during the military operation to eliminate the banned TTP. They have been warning since several months that militants are trickling back into the area, and the tenor of attacks indicate that these elements are beginning to acquire a foothold in North Waziristan, the TTP’s old stomping grounds. A jirga held by local youth in Mir Ali following the Eid murders accused the government of failing to maintain the peace secured by the Zarb-i-Azb operation and demanded action against growing incidents of targeted killing in the district. The state must swiftly and sincerely engage with the residents, identify and prosecute the attackers, and ensure that any resurgent militant cells are eradicated. Disenchantment with the authorities can be a fertile ground for the seeds of militancy to be sown. That is how the Pakistani Taliban entrenched themselves: they preyed on the people’s legitimate, and unmet, desire for justice to impose on them their bloodthirsty regime.

Long-standing grievances in Balochistan too have fuelled several separatist insurgencies in the province, and created conditions in which a slew of violent extremist and criminal groups thrive. Earlier this month, six Frontier Corps personnel were martyred when their vehicle was targeted by an IED near the Pak-Iran border. Allegations that terrorist outfits on both sides slip across the border to carry out attacks on each other’s soil have often bedevilled the countries’ bilateral ties. Then, two weeks ago, six soldiers were martyred in an IED explosion claimed by Baloch insurgents, while another laid down his life in an exchange of fire with militants in a separate incident the same day. The uptick in violence during a year when Pakistan is facing multifaceted challenges is very troubling. A sustainable peace may call for a less security-centric and more people-centric approach.

Published in Dawn, June 1st, 2020