Resurgent militancy

Published November 15, 2023

WHILE Pakistan may not be witnessing the mass-casualty terror attacks — particularly against civilian targets in urban centres — that the nation saw a decade ago, the militants are making their presence felt through frequent, deadly forays targeting security personnel.

Two separate attacks on Monday, one in Dera Ismail Khan, the other in North Waziristan, are the latest in this series of murderous assaults. In the D.I. Khan incident, two civilians and a security man lost their lives when terrorists struck an oil firm while two soldiers were martyred in the North Waziristan gunfight.

D.I. Khan and its proximate districts — Lakki Marwat, Zhob, Mianwali — have all been seeing a spate of militant activity in the recent past, resulting in the loss of many security men, and it is this geographic area that the military and intelligence apparatus need to focus on to eradicate the resurgent militant threat.

The area in question covers three provinces — KP, Balochistan and Punjab. It is also close to the Afghan border. In fact, some observers say that the southern KP districts provide ‘easy’ access to militants to carry out attacks in neighbouring areas of Punjab and Balochistan.

Experts have attributed the high frequency of attacks to the insufficient presence of troops in the area, while others say militant networks are quite active in this region. It is a fact that security forces are engaged on multiple fronts to counter the terrorist threat.

Moreover, southern KP is also considered a hotbed of TTP activity. The security planners need to take all these realities into account while forging a counterterrorism plan that can bring peace to the affected areas, and prevent militant activities from metastasising into another full-blown insurgency.

It should be remembered that the earlier insurgencies — which started out of Malakand and former Fata — took similar trajectories, that led to a high civilian casualty rate. It took the sacrifice of many security men to neutralise the threat through multiple military operations.

We can debate the folly of engaging the banned TTP for ‘peace’, and indeed, there should be accountability of all state functionaries who allowed the militants to return and establish a fresh foothold in their former stomping grounds. But the immediate need is to stop militant attacks and break up terrorist networks. Already major attacks have occurred in Karachi, Chitral, Peshawar, Mianwali, Zhob and Gwadar.

Therefore, through intelligence-based operations, security forces need to pre-empt terrorists, and plug the gaps that allow militants to strike at security men and civilians.

Unless these steps are taken, Pakistan will be dragged back to its violent past when bloodthirsty outfits struck at will, and the state was reduced to fighting the fires lit by the militants. Better intelligence gathering and proactive CT strategies are urgently needed.

Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2023

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