THE car bomb that killed three people in Lahore’s Johar Town on Wednesday is a grim reminder that the threat of terror attacks is ever present and that improved vigilance is critical. Though police high-ups did not expressly name Jamaatud Dawa chief Hafiz Saeed in their statements, they said the explosion occurred near the house of a ‘high-value target’. Nearly 15kg of explosive material was said to have been used. The fact that the device was installed inside a parked car in the middle of a busy area suggests that the person or group behind the blast had done a considerable amount of homework before carrying out the nefarious plan.
The authorities may also link the timing of the attack and its proximity to Hafiz Saeed’s house to the fact that the FATF plenary meetings are underway. The name of the JuD chief, who is currently incarcerated in Kot Lakhpat jail, has once again come up in the media as Pakistan awaits the FATF’s decision regarding its removal from the grey list. It is also important to note that thus far no one has claimed responsibility for this attack — which would be unusual had the perpetrators been a religious militant or ethnonationalist group.
Given the ever-present threat, it is indeed welcome that the National Intelligence Coordination Committee has finally been made operational. This week, incidentally on the same day as the Lahore attack — which could perhaps have been prevented had there been better intelligence — the long-awaited spy agency liaison body became functional. A functional NICC has been a long time coming, as the Abbottabad Commission investigating the US raid to capture Osama bin Laden had in 2011 pointed to the lack of a platform for the integration of both civil and military intelligence. The fact that such a body did not exist or was not working prior to this week points to gaps in the intelligence-sharing mechanism. The supra-intelligence committee gives a major role to the ISI in leading coordination efforts to combat terrorism. Given the underwhelming performance of Nacta, which has been reduced to a post office disseminating information from the interior ministry to the various CTD departments, expectations from the NICC are high. Its role in efficiently sharing intelligence is crucial, as the lack of such a practice leads to compromised security. While inter-agency rivalries exist in many countries, when it comes to effective internal and external counterterrorism, collaboration is key.
It is important that those involved in heinous crimes and terrorism be brought to justice. But it is also essential that unauthorised actions such as enforced disappearances or extrajudicial killings are not justified in this collaboration. In this regard, there is a need for an oversight committee of parliament to evaluate the NICC’s performance and ensure it remains within the confines of constitutional provisions in the execution of its responsibilities.
Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2021