WITH the regional security situation extremely fluid in Pakistan’s immediate neighbourhood, particularly next door in Afghanistan, the state must keep a keen eye on subversive elements that may try and take advantage of the situation and destabilise the environment in the country. The martyrdom of at least four Frontier Corps men in a suicide attack on Sunday on the Quetta-Mastung Road on the outskirts of Quetta comes as a reminder that the country cannot afford to let down its guard even for a moment.
The banned TTP has claimed responsibility for the act of terrorism. Over the past few months, there has been an uptick in militant activity. Last month, at least two children were killed when militants struck a motorcade carrying Chinese nationals in Gwadar’s East-Bay Expressway area while Chinese individuals have also been targeted in Karachi. These incidents are believed to have been carried out by outlawed Baloch separatists. Moreover July’s Dasu incident, in which a number of Chinese nationals were killed, highlighted the need for stricter security measures to protect Beijing’s nationals working in Pakistan.
While Pakistan can do little to control security threats abroad, the security apparatus must do all possible to prevent militant cells from carrying out their activities here. As noted above, Afghanistan is an area of particular concern. Though this state does not have adverse relations with the Afghan Taliban — the de facto rulers of Kabul — Afghanistan lacks an internationally recognised government, while groups such as the self-styled Islamic State’s Khorasan chapter, the TTP as well as Baloch insurgents may still be present on Afghan soil. Pakistan must therefore press the Afghan Taliban to take action against these security threats, while efforts must be stepped up to ensure there is no infiltration into Pakistan by hostile actors.
Intelligence-based operations also need to be revved up locally, especially in areas like Balochistan and erstwhile Fata, where the security situation has been particularly fragile in the past. Moreover, some regional states that do not want to see peace in Pakistan may also use the situation in Afghanistan to destabilise this country. These efforts must be countered. Lastly, the quicker an inclusive government is formed in Afghanistan, the better not only for that country, but the whole region. The Taliban as well as their Afghan adversaries need to work towards this goal, to ensure a new civil war is not used by militant groups to regroup and spread havoc across the region.
Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2021