IT is clear that the new wave of militancy is not likely to recede anytime soon. A day after the atrocious terrorist attack on a mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines, TTP fighters raided a police station in Punjab’s Mianwali district.
According to security officials, the incursion targeting the Makarwal police station was repulsed after a ‘grand operation’ was undertaken, involving police units from neighbouring districts as well as Lahore.
The area targeted during Tuesday night’s raid borders KP, specifically Lakki Marwat district, which has in the recent past been affected by terrorist activity. The foray should serve as a warning that the terrorists are moving beyond the peripheries towards the heartland, and that the state needs to prepare itself to meet the challenge.
Though Punjab has been relatively quiet after successive military operations brought a semblance of peace to the country, in the past terrorists have struck deep inside the province, including Lahore.
Moreover, after the TTP began its latest reign of terror following the end of the ceasefire last year, the militants have shown that they are capable of reaching Islamabad, as the suicide blast in the capital in December highlighted.
The fact is that the so-called Punjabi Taliban have always maintained cordial ties with the TTP, including providing recruits to the terrorist outfit, and sleeper cells are bound to exist, as the sectarian and jihadi militants of yore are still very much around, though maintaining a lower profile.
Now, emboldened by the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan, as well as the TTP’s deadly recent forays, the Punjabi Taliban may be reactivating themselves, at least as facilitators if not combatants.
The best way to stem the tide of this coming onslaught, as stated before in these columns, is to improve intelligence capabilities and uproot the terrorist infrastructure nationwide. Combing operations have been conducted in Punjab, and these need to be intensified considering the latest threats.
Vigilance by law enforcers in Punjab is relatively better, yet by no means can the civilian and military security agencies underestimate the threat, as the Mianwali episode has shown.
The military’s top brass also emphasised the need for effective intelligence-based operations to counter the terrorist threat during Tuesday’s corps commanders’ conference, which is why the military needs to share intel with civilian agencies to achieve the target of neutralising the militant menace. As terrorists recognise no borders and jurisdictions, LEAs in all four provinces, as well as the centre, will have to coordinate their efforts to confront the threat.
Moreover, full implementation of the National Action Plan is imperative — this means action against the ‘good’ Taliban, as well as malevolent sectarian actors who can serve as the militants’ ‘B’ team. The whole spectrum of the terrorist threat needs to be confronted, not just parts of it.
Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2023