Lurking militancy

Published March 23, 2023

WITH the din of politics drowning out everything else in Pakistan, the troubling reality that is emerging is that the country is facing an ever-present terrorist threat, primarily in the shape of the TTP. Though mercifully the violence perpetrated by the group has not reached the bloody levels of a decade ago, the situation is far from normal.

Take the twin attacks in KP on Tuesday, in which at least five security personnel, including a senior ISI officer, lost their lives. In one incident, Brig Mustafa Kamal Barki, who was attached to the intelligence agency, was martyred along with his driver in South Waziristan, close to the Afghan border, when he was ambushed by terrorists.

In the other episode, at least three troops were martyred in an encounter in Dera Ismail Khan. While no group has yet claimed responsibility for either attack, the TTP is active in both areas; splinter groups may also have been responsible.

The fact that militants can hit cities — as they have done in Peshawar and Karachi over the past few months — as well as target troops in the field in remote areas, indicates their reach and operational capabilities. It is these capabilities that need to be neutralised by the security forces before the TTP, or similar malign actors, gain the confidence to stage even more brazen attacks.

According to ISPR, over 140 militants have been killed over the past few months, while over 1,000 fighters have been arrested and thousands of operations conducted during the same period. While it does seem that counterterrorism efforts are having an impact, to ensure better security across the country, no safe havens can be left for the terrorists, especially in remote areas along the Pak-Afghan border.

The security forces need to particularly concentrate on these areas off the beaten path, along with conducting intelligence-based operations in the cities, and cracking down on the terrorists’ finances.

Sustained diplomatic efforts must also continue in order to convince the Afghan Taliban to not let their soil be used to host anti-Pakistan terrorists. The Afghan rulers tend to be evasive about TTP activities in their country, but the message from Pakistan needs to be unambiguous: there can be no safe havens in Afghanistan for terrorists. Internally, political dissonance is not helping the counterterrorism effort.

If anything, our feuding political forces present a picture of weakness and discord to elements that wish to bring harm to the country. Where the fight against terrorism is concerned, the politicians — treasury and opposition — and the establishment need to be on the same page and pursue a single-point agenda: to uproot the infrastructure of militancy from the country and address the underlying reasons that fuel it. Politicking on this existential issue will only bring more harm to the country.

Published in Dawn, March 23rd, 2023

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