Saturday, November 24, 2012

Daily Times Editorial Nov 25, 2012

Muharram terror fears Given the terror attacks in Karachi and Rawalpindi in the run up to the 9th and 10th of Muharram, the governments, both federal and provincial, took massive security measures on Saturday to ensure the 9th passed peacefully. The routes of Muharram processions were scoured by security personnel to ensure a bomb-free passage, a maximum number of jammers were installed along the routes to prevent explosions, cell phone services were suspended in almost 50 cities, and even the PTCL wireless phone services were closed. In Islamabad traffic restrictions were imposed to keep vehicles out of the high security Red Zone. Control rooms were set up in the federal as well as provincial capitals. Rangers, police personnel, backed by sharpshooters were massively deployed along the procession routes to prevent suicide bombers joining the crowds. The net result of these massive measures was that the day passed peacefully, with the exception of a roadside bomb explosion in D I Khan that killed eight people, five of them children under 15. Ironically, although there are reports that the cell phone service had not been turned off in D I Khan despite instructions, a lapse Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik wants investigated, information from the site of the blast indicates a TV remote may have been used instead of the ‘usual’ cell phone. As a result of the attack, the army has been deployed to bolster the security forces in the area. This is a reflection of the discussion between the president, prime minister and COAS on Friday regarding the law and order and security situation. Although the COAS the other day had turned down any suggestion of deploying the army in Karachi, arguing the Rangers and police were doing a good job, he had also said the army was ready to come to the aid of civil power should the government order it to under Article 245 of the constitution. Rehman Malik’s take on the use of mobile phones and motorcycles being the preferred method of ‘delivering’ terrorist attacks is based on the argument that motorcycles were used in 90 percent of the attacks in the last two years, and the frequent use of mobile phones as triggers or detonators. His use of cell phone suspensions from time to time has earned him a lot of stick from the public and cell phone providers, but if the evidence of Saturday is anything to go by, the blanket suspension may have worked, along with all the other measures adopted. Of course the test is by no means over. Today’s processions will be even bigger and harder to secure. Therein lies the test of the authorities’ ability to stave off the efforts of the fanatics and terrorists. What has been good about the handling of the 9th of Muharram is that all the governments, federal and provincial, were on the same page and cooperating with each other in all too rare display of responsibility and setting aside petty political rivalries. Such massive mobilisations are of course not possible every day. But if they succeed in making Muharram pass peacefully, the lessons to be learnt are obvious. All governments, civilian and military authorities need to come together and cooperate if the menace of terrorism is to be rolled back and eventually defeated. Ideally, a body should be set up to coordinate all actions, intelligence and data on the terrorists so that they can be sent where they belong, into the dustbin of history.

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