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Intelligence failure

September 09, 2010

TWO bomb blasts in two days targeting policemen and their families expose the weaknesses of our intelligence apparatus. First it was Lakki Marwat, where a suicide attacker rammed his vehicle into a police station. Then, on Tuesday, a bomb was detonated in a police residential colony in Kohat with deadly consequences. Add to this the deadly attacks on processions in Lahore and Quetta. The intent of the militants is clear: they wish to demoralise the security forces of a country that is struggling for survival. This latest upsurge in violence is no coincidence — the enemies of Pakistan are attempting to inflict maximum damage at a time when resistance levels are low. As the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa information minister pointed out, terrorists are hitting the police when the country's attention is diverted from militancy because of the ravages of floods. Such attacks should have been foreseen and the intelligence failures involved are simply unacceptable.

True, the country's military is stretched to the limit as we speak. It is in the forefront of rescue and relief operations that were beyond the capacity, and perhaps will, of the civil administration. Still, not for a moment can the fight against militancy be forgotten and nor can terrorists be allowed to regroup. The reports trickling in from the tribal areas are troubling. On the run last year following the armed forces' fierce offensive, groups operating under the umbrella of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan are now said to be making a comeback and making the most of the nation's misery. They cannot be allowed to succeed in their mission.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik's remarks about Balochistan do not help at this critical juncture, because the problems plaguing that province are dissimilar from the wider fight against terrorism. Playing to the gallery, he said in Quetta on Tuesday that “use of force” was the only option available for restoring law and order in Balochistan. Missing the point entirely, the interior minister appears to be in favour of a Malakand-kind military operation in Balochistan which is only bound to fuel tensions, not quell them. Instead, he should be looking into tracking down those who fund militancy in this country and seem to have easy access to explosives. The minister needs to set his priorities right and gather better intelligence on terrorist networks and the routes they use, apparently with abandon. What is needed here is prevention. The 'Balochistan issue' is entirely different in its complexity from the insurgency raging in the tribal belt. Balochistan's woes have been decades in the making and can only be resolved through dialogue.