Multiple attacks

Updated 17 Oct 2020

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IN recent weeks, back-to-back terror attacks in the country have marked a clear rise in militancy levels. This week’s security incidents in Waziristan and Gwadar have underscored just how grim the situation is. Six security personnel were martyred in Razmak and 14 in Ormara; both were high-casualty incidents, yet the latter attack was particularly brazen. In the tribal district, the use of IEDs by the outlawed TTP follows a common strategy of militants in the region, but the Ormara ambush gave an entirely new dimension to militancy.

It is also evident from the large number of casualties that a number of militants must have been involved in the attack on the convoy of FC troops and private OGDCL guards.

That these security personnel were brutally attacked by a militant group raises concerns about vigilance in the insurgency-hit area as well as the need for appropriate counterterrorism training for these personnel. Recently in Bahawalpur, the army chief too stressed the importance of training, saying that it is a vital part of a soldier’s professional development and is key to tackling future security challenges.

The Ormara attacks should reinforce the army chief’s message, as it underscores the need to give proper training to those assigned on security duties in an area where an insurgency has persisted for many years. Those deployed for the security of a convoy in these sensitive areas must be given adequate training to fend off such nefarious plans. Unless the state is able to provide proper security cover, most people and companies will be reluctant to work in those areas. Incidents like this in Gwadar, which is being developed and marketed by the government as a hub of international investment, will discourage investors and create a tense environment.

Another major factor here is the involvement of the Baloch Raaji Ajoi Sangar — an alliance of insurgent groups BLA, BLF and BRG who have claimed responsibility for the attack. The group was banned and put under surveillance by the government under Section 11-B of the ATA in 2019, yet the recent attacks show intelligence failure. Whether these groups are backed by foreign agencies or a product of local insurgency, the government’s top counterterrorism agency must provide answers on what happened in Gwadar.

What is unfortunate is that the agency formed as a key player for counterterrorism under NAP is often said to have no vision or capacity. What is even more troubling is that a committee has been formed to consider a proposal to cut Nacta’s strength by over 50pc — a move that contradicts the interior minister’s call to “strengthen” the agency. Not only must the government account for Nacta’s abysmal performance, it must also reflect on its counterterrorism strategy after these attacks and know that training and intelligence gathering are essential. Neither can be done without resources.

Published in Dawn, October 17th, 2020