THERE was a time not too long ago when militant groups had unleashed a reign of terror in Pakistan, resulting in widespread bloodshed across the country. It took the combined efforts of the military, police and civil administration to counter the menace of terrorism; the fight was taken to militant sanctuaries in the erstwhile tribal areas, while many facilitators in the cities were also neutralised through intelligence-based operations. Now, as the situation deteriorates in Afghanistan and a hostile, pro-Hindutva government sits in New Delhi, Pakistan will have to remain on guard to prevent the re-emergence of terrorist outfits within its borders. In a recent interview given to a local TV channel, the ISPR spokesman hinted at the threat posed to the country by terrorist groups’ sleeper cells. In particular, Maj-Gen Babar Iftikhar mentioned the possibility of subversive activities in Balochistan. He added that since May, KP and Balochistan had witnessed around 150 terrorist incidents. Moreover, the possibility of terrorist involvement in the recent Dasu bus tragedy cannot be ruled out.

What happens beyond Pakistan’s borders is not in this country’s control. However, the situation within Pakistan can surely be monitored to ensure that the threats from terrorist outfits are countered before militants can carry out acts of mayhem. “We are conducting proactive and aggressive operations” against militants, the military’s spokesman had said. Indeed, this is the way to proceed, before terrorist groups get a chance to activate their cells. The authorities need to take intelligence-based action against suspects to pre-empt acts of terrorism. There is little doubt that jihadi and sectarian groups — many of whom have kept a low profile over the last few years — will be emboldened if an Afghan Taliban takeover of Kabul materialises and they may activate themselves in Pakistan. Therefore, the state must keep a vigilant eye on the ‘usual suspects’ known to foment religious and sectarian hatred and that have in the past openly challenged the state, its Constitution and its institutions. As for hostile foreign actors, their activities should also be watched closely and the message to their handlers abroad must be clear: Pakistan will not tolerate activities designed to foment lawlessness within its borders. The administration and the civilian and military security agencies must coordinate their plans and actions to confront the terrorist threat. It is imperative that hostile, non-state actors be apprehended before they are able to spill innocent blood once again in this country.

Published in Dawn, July 24th, 2021

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