SECURITY experts have been proved correct in their assessment that the bloodthirsty TTP juggernaut would sooner rather than later move beyond KP and start spreading havoc in the rest of the country.
Mere weeks after the devastating attack targeting the Peshawar Police Lines mosque, the terrorist group claimed responsibility for striking Karachi on Friday evening. It raided key police installations on the arterial Sharea Faisal, raising questions about the efficacy of the national counterterrorism policy — if, indeed, there is one.
As these lines were being written, the law enforcers’ counter-attack had successfully ended the assault on the Karachi Police Office and its allied facilities. But the entire event brought back painful memories of violent past episodes in the metropolis where the TTP has launched murderous, brazen assaults. These include the 2011 Mehran Base raid, as well as the 2014 attack on the Karachi airport.
There has been no let-up in TTP violence. For example, on Thursday, the terrorists attacked CTD personnel in Punjab’s Kalabagh area, in Mianwali district, while a few weeks earlier, members of the banned outfit had raided a police station in the same district, located close to KP. But Friday’s attack in Karachi is a far more complex operation.
The militants targeted an area in the heart of the city, where several facilities of the military, police and other security agencies are located. This is a breach of unacceptable proportions, and clearly our collective security and intelligence apparatus was caught off guard, with devastating consequences.
Police and Rangers’ back-up had to be called in from the entire city, while the provincial government also sought the military’s help. If one terrorist raid can bring Karachi’s entire security apparatus to the field, what havoc might more complex militant operations cause?
This is another wakeup call for the squabbling politicians who rule in our name, as well as the security establishment that keeps reminding us that ‘all is well’. Clearly, both stakeholders must understand the true situation.
According to media reports, the federal interior minister told a TV channel he was under the ‘impression’ that militants did not have ‘access’ beyond KP and Balochistan.
His impression was obviously flawed. The terrorists have the ability, as well as the links and operational wherewithal, to strike at will, while the state’s response has been largely unimpressive. This must change.
In the Karachi strike, it is likely that sleeper cells were activated, as there is no shortage of sympathisers of the TTP in the port city in the shape of cadres and fighters of ‘jihadi’ and sectarian groups.
It should also be remembered that over the last few decades, major Al Qaeda operatives have been apprehended from the metropolis. Whatever the facts, the state needs to act now before more such attacks take place.
Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2023