Thursday, June 12, 2014

Daily Times Editorial June 13, 2014

Response to terrorism The 72nd Formation Commanders’ Conference of the Pakistan army, a half-yearly event, chaired by COAS General Raheel Sharif, was held at GHQ on Wednesday against the backdrop of the attack on Karachi airport and retaliatory air strikes in North Waziristan (NW). After a thorough briefing and review of security strategy and operational preparedness in the struggle against the biggest challenge to the state from jihadi extremists, the Conference decided to step up surgical strikes against militants holed up in FATA generally, and in NW in particular. The decision can be viewed in the light of two ironies. One, the tribal jirga of NW was given a deadline the other day of 15 days to clear out their area of foreign fighters. And lo and behold, long before that deadline expired, Uzbek fighters of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan took responsibility, along with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), for the Karachi attack, with security forces sources claiming the operation was coordinated by the sectarian group the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi. On the same day, the hiatus in drone strikes since December last was broken in NW by the killing of four Uzbek and two Punjabi Taliban fighters. If any further proof were required of the nexus amongst foreign and domestic jihadi and sectarian groups, the Karachi attack has brought into the full light of day the existence of a ‘Terror International’ on Pakistani soil. The constructed binary of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban too is collapsing in the face of reports that the Haqqani network too may be part of the Terror International attacking Pakistan, despite the fact that they have been one of the most favoured and nurtured Afghan groups on Pakistani soil. This generosity they first repaid by hosting Mullah Fazlullah, the chief of the TTP, in the eastern provinces of Afghanistan across the border, which they control. Now reports say they have been involved at some level with the Karachi and other attacks by Pakistani and foreign Taliban, if not at an operational, then perhaps an intelligence and logistical level. Anyone with any sense could have seen that whatever the illusions of those who saw the Taliban fighting against Pakistan as ‘bad’ and those fighting the US/NATO/Afghan forces as ‘good’, and whatever the level of pretence maintained by all these groups to justify these labels, their ideological and operational nexus has proved more powerful than any other consideration, especially now that battle is truly joined between the Pakistani state and the fanatical terrorists who seek to overthrow it. And in case anyone thinks that the Karachi attack will be the end of immediate terrorism by the TTP and its affiliates, the attacks on Wednesday in seemingly ‘reconquered’ Swat that killed five people, including three policemen, indicate the stubborn nature and protracted timeline of combating the extremists’ insurgency and terrorism. In the aftermath of the Karachi attack, the tragedy of the seven people who lost their lives by being trapped inside a cold storage facility where they had taken refuge haunts the country. In addition, the bravery of the Airport Security Force (ASF) in blunting the terrorist attack at great cost and sacrifice shines out, but reports about confusion regarding the command and control structure of the ASF force us to return to our long standing argument in this space that the counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism campaign requires all military, paramilitary, police, intelligence and other security forces to be combined under one centralised command with a centralised data base if inroads and successes are desired against the terrorist octopus with its long arms everywhere. The traditional mistrust between civilian and military institutions and discrete intelligence agencies must give way, in the interests of safeguarding the state and society, to a new security architecture capable of cutting off as many heads as the hydra of terrorism proves capable of sprouting.

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